Thursday, 6 January 2011

Cocaine hidden in rice bags

December 30 2010
By Ntokozo Mfusi
IOL news pic Cocaine Durban dec30


A consignment of 312kg of cocaine, hidden among bags of rice in a container, was intercepted in Durban harbour.

Details of how a consignment of 312kg of cocaine, hidden among bags of rice in a container, was intercepted in Durban harbour emerged during a bail application by six suspects yesterday.

The suspects, allegedly part of an international drug-smuggling syndicate arrested earlier this month, appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court.

They are British citizen Nitin Patel, Mozambicans Jose Rodrigues, Ben Nuvunga and Cassmo Haramate, Peter Fernando, a dual citizen of South Africa and Sri Lanka, and South African Jabar Sheik.

Their arrest came after the seizure of drugs with a street value of R316-million. It followed an eight-month joint investigation by members of the Pietermaritzburg Hawks, Pretoria crime intelligence and authorities from Canada, Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the Organised Crime Unit’s Lieutenant-Colonel Johan Meeding’s affidavit, his office received information in April about the activities of an international drug trafficking syndicate operating in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The information was that the syndicate was well organised and funded with links in Netherlands, Canada and Mozambique with kingpins in the United Arab Emirates in Dubai.”

Several foreigners living in South Africa were involved in “transshipment of narcotics from Mozambique to South Africa and vice versa, possibly to other countries as well”.

The narcotics were allegedly transported in containers on ships. On November 17, a consignment of 312kg of cocaine was intercepted at Durban harbour; the cocaine was hidden among bags of rice in a container destined for Mozambique.

The drugs were put back in place so as not to raise suspicion and the container was allowed to proceed to Gauteng, where it was kept under surveillance.

The containers stayed in Gauteng until December 9 when a transport company received papers to pick it up.

The bags were being off-loaded by 15 labourers when the suspects were arrested. All were found with Nokia 1202 cellphones which allegedly link them to an international syndicate, said Meeding.

In searches of the suspects’ homes, documents relating to the shipping and clearing of containers and those related to a seizure of hashish in a container in Canada were found.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Dubai were notified and three suspects were arrested in the Netherlands.

The accused were all detained on December 10.

Five applied for bail while Patel applied for legal aid citing that he had no money to apply for bail. He is due in court on January 28 for legal aid to be approved.

The defence team said the State’s evidence was based on suspicion and nothing else, stating that the State did not have concrete evidence linking their clients to the so-called international syndicate.

Magistrate Anand Maharaj will announce his decision on bail today. - The Mercury

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