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Durban - The raid that led to the rescue of 16 girls, many of them under age, from an alleged brothel in Durban was illegal, the policeman who spearheaded the operation has conceded.
Warrant Officer Cyril Freese was testifying in a trail-within-a-trial in the Durban Regional Court on Thursday regarding the admissibility of the search warrant he executed on February 16 last year.
The policeman had led the operation at the Inn Town Lodge, which is owned by Durban doctor Genchen Rugnath and his wife, Ravina.
The couple are on trial, along with co-accused Sandile Zweni, Nduduzo Dlamini and Bhabha Dubazani, on 156 charges including assault, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and racketeering.
All have pleaded not guilty.
On Thursday during cross-examination by advocate Jay Naidoo, acting for Ravina Rugnath, it emerged that the police search warrant was unlawful.
It was in the name of Zweni, who was thought to have been the person who “controlled” the premises.
It was only when Freese had arrived at the lodge that he was told that Veena Budhram (who has turned state witness), was the manager. At this point, Freese conceded, the warrant had become “useless”.
Naidoo tersely put it to Freese that he had “absolutely no authority to interfere with the documents, the books” or anything related to Inn Town.
“The search was illegal because you never had the authority,” he said.
Freese responded: “Yes.”
The couple’s attorney, Anand Nepaul, disputed the authenticity of an affidavit written by Freese.
Nepaul argued that the affidavit Freese said he presented to the chief magistrate was not the same, in terms of the layout and format, as the one that was commissioned by the court.
He put it to Freese that he had acted without the authority of the director of public prosecutions. He said Freese had misled the chief magistrate into believing he had the authority to execute a trap in terms of section 252A of the Criminal Procedure Act.
Freese also testified on Thursday that Budhram had given him consent to search the premises. However, Nepaul said this was a fabrication as there was no earlier mention of the conversation with Budhram where she allegedly gave her consent.
The matter is expected to continue on Wednesday.