/ 25 October 2010

Tara KLamp director faces extradition

Zambia’s drug-busting agency has approached Interpol to help bring the man behind the controversial Tara KLamp circumcision device back home to answer criminal charges.

Ibrahim Sildky Yusuf, a Zambian national resident in South Africa, is the main director of a company the KwaZulu-Natal department of health appointed to supply the circumcision devices for use in its HIV/Aids prevention campaign.

By the end of September the department had bought 22 500 of the devices at a cost of R4,37-million.

At R195, excluding VAT, each device is approximately R35 more expensive than the surgical kit for a conventional forceps-guided circumcision. The Tara KLamp is not approved by the World Health Organisation.

The Mail & Guardian reported earlier this month that Yusuf had been detained in Zambia in the 1980s in connection with a high-level Mandrax-smuggling network.

It also reported that he faced charges of fraud and theft dating back to 2002 and that he had fled Zambia to avoid arrest. But Yusuf denied the allegations put to him by the M&G and said he had visited Zambia “a number of times” since 2001.

“South Africa has an extradition treaty with Zambia and surely if [Yusuf] was a wanted person, as you allege, he could have long been extradited to face whatever criminal charges in Zambia,” Yusuf said through his lawyer, Tshepo Mathopo.

The M&G has since received a document on Yusuf prepared by the Zambian Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), which confirmed the allegations outlined in the M&G‘s article.

It also included other details, alleging that he had been arrested in July 1989 in connection with the unlawful importation of vehicles and trafficking in Mandrax and again in December 1997 in connection with money-laundering and illegally importing vehicles.

Mathopo responded on Yusuf’s behalf: “Our client’s detention [in 1989] was an abuse by those in authority at the time since he was detained on mere suspicion under the state of emergency, then in existence.

“Our client was never detained in December 1997 as alleged. He was merely questioned in the presence of his legal representative. No charges were preferred nor was he detained.”

The DEC document outlines its attempts to trace Yusuf after he allegedly fled: “[We] failed to track him — hence [we] solicited assistance from the Interpol Sub Regional Bureau in Harare, Zimbabwe, and other member countries in the region through Interpol-Zambia.

“[Yusuf] remains untraced, but the charges against him still stand. The DEC is resolved to bring Iboo [Yusuf’s alias] back to Zambia with the aid of cooperating partners so that he can face the charges laid against him.”

Contacted for clarification, John Nyawali, the commission’s ­spokesperson, said that under Zambian law a person could not be tried in absentia.

Nyawali would not comment on what steps the commission was taking to seek Yusuf’s extradition from South Africa. “We would rather not expose what’s in the offing,” he said.

Tumi Shai, an SAPS spokesperson, said Interpol-South Africa had not received any formal request from the Zambian authorities but that they were moving premises and could not fully access their electronic records.

But Mathopo said that “in 2003, the S[outh] A[frican] authorities requested Zambian police clearance on him, which was duly granted— [clearance] would not have been granted if he was wanted for any alleged criminal offences in Zambia.”

The M&G asked Yusuf for a copy of the police clearance document and he promised to make it available within days.