Brazilians to testify in Cwele drugs case

Three Brazilians will testify in the drug-trafficking case against the state security minister’s wife and a Nigerian national, the Pietermaritzburg High Court heard on Monday.

The case against Frank Nabolisa and Sheryl Cwele (42), wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, began on Monday.

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

The state is to call Jean Carlos de Bortole of the Brazilian federal police, Carolina Passato Braga, and Denilison Ricardo Maia, who examines drugs.

Cwele and Nabolisa allegedly conspired to recruit Charmaine Moss and Tessa Beetge as drug mules. Beetge is currently serving an eight-year jail sentence in São Paulo, Brazil, after 10kg of raw cocaine was found in her luggage.

Bortole arrested Beetge, the court heard.

Cwele and Nabolisa were arrested in January and face three charges—dealing or conspiring to deal in drugs; procuring Moss to collect drugs in Turkey; and procuring Beetge to smuggle 10kg of cocaine from South America. Beetge was allegedly promised a job in London, but was sent to Brazil where she was arrested.

Cwele was granted R100 000 bail on February 5. Nabolisa was denied bail because the court considered him a flight risk.

Testifying in court on Monday, Moss described how she was allegedly recruited by Cwele to work overseas. She met Nabolisa in Johannesburg during preparations for her trip.

Moss, a state witness, allegedly later turned down the job offer. Moss, a professional beauty therapist and former police officer, told the court she met Cwele in 2005 when they both took their children to a choir on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast.

They lost contact and then “bumped” into each other in 2007 at a shopping centre, where Cwele told Moss about a job opportunity overseas. She would be a beauty therapist or a caregiver and earn R25 000 in two weeks, the court heard.

Moss decided against taking the offer when she became suspicious after Cwele introduced her to Nabolisa, who was described as an agent who organised overseas jobs.

“Nabolisa paid for the flight from Durban to Johannesburg. My understanding was that I would go straight to Turkey from Johannesburg, but they put me in a hotel,” Moss said. “The hotel was scary, had no telephone and had no name written on it. When I asked questions, he [Nabolisa] said I was asking too many questions and he smacked me,” she said.

She said Cwele had told her Nabolisa was a good person.

Cwele’s lawyer, advocate Mvuseni Ngubane, asked her why she did not mention in her statement that Nabolisa assaulted her. Ngubane also questioned her over why she did not report the matter to the police.

Moss said she had only mentioned it to a former police officer, Johann Strydom.

“When I told him about what happened, he told me not to say anything because the police were investigating the matter.”

Ngubane, however, dismissed Moss’s explanation, and contended it was possible Moss had fabricated the story and implicated Cwele after the story about Beetge’s arrest was published in a newspaper in March 2009.

Cwele arrived in court with two women. Nabolisa made his entrance with his feet in shackles and accompanied by three armed police officers.

Siyabonga Cwele, who was in court during Sheryl Cwele’s bail application in February, was not in court on Monday.

Nabolisa, who smiled continuously, and Cwele sat close to each other and spoke during court proceedings.—Sapa

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