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Durban - AN UMHLANGA businessman has been convicted of murder, along with the hired gunman he used to get rid of his partner who had planned to start his own company.
Priyen Naidu and hitman Ruwain Meer were found guilty on two counts of murder in the Durban High Court on Friday.
The victims, Chatsworth businessman Zainool Fakir, 32, and his 27-year-old nephew, Akbar Sudhoona, were shot in the head at close range at a house in Westville. Their bodies were found in the boot of Fakir’s car in West Riding, Sherwood, on May 14, 2009.
Their cellphones and watches had been stolen, but Judge Mohini Moodley found that it was not a random robbery, but a planned murder.
The motive is not known, but the State argued that Fakir had planned to start a business on his own, and Naidu, his business partner, had hired Meer to kill him.
Naidu and Meer had pleaded not guilty in 2011 to murder as well as to a charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances. They were not convicted on the robbery charge.
Reading from her more than 100-page judgment, Moodley joined the dots connecting Naidu and Meer. The blanket found in the boot of Fakir’s car belonged to the woman Meer was living with at the time. She had confirmed the blanket belonged to her and that Meer told her Naidu had offered him R50 000 for the “hit”.
Naidu had argued that the money was for a cocaine party he hosted in uMhlanga on the night of the murder.
Meer had also admitted to a clerk in the Durban Magistrate’s Court to shooting Fakir and Sudhoona. The clerk had testified to receiving cellphone calls from Meer, while he was on the run from police, asking her to steal or make a copy of the docket. She said Meer admitted to the shooting and that Naidu was the mastermind.
Cellphone records had placed Naidu in the vicinity of the crime scene. The court rejected his argument that he was in the area to fetch his mistress. He testified to not telling the police about this because he did not want his wife to know he was having an extra-marital affair.
Naidoo also claimed that he went to Westville, where Meer was staying, to ensure that he was not being “short-changed” for the drugs he was buying.
The court also rejected Meer’s version that he had left the party to buy more cocaine.
Referring to the evidence of Fakir’s wife, Quraisha, about her husband telling her he was going to see Naidu, the judge said Quraisha had called Naidu and no one else about her husband’s whereabouts, indicating that she believed her husband was with him.
The court found that the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Sujit Rohit, was a consistent and reliable witness. Rohit had testified to finding fabric remains in a wheelbarrow at the uMhlanga premises where the party was held. Witnesses had testified to seeing Naidu and Meer leaving together wearing similar clothing and when they returned they burnt their clothes in a wheelbarrow.
After the State had closed its case last November, the defence had applied for the evidence of Naidu’s former attorney, Rajesh Hiralall, car guard Thandokhulise Mkhulise, and Naidu’s friend and employee, Vishal Gunpath, to be disallowed. However, Moodley had ruled that all the evidence was admissible.
Hiralall, who was Naidu’s attorney at the time of his arrest in 2009, had testified that during a discussion with his client after his arrest, he waived his attorney-client privilege and told him the whereabouts of both the victims’ cellphones.
Naidu had told him that Meer had given him this information and Hiralall then relayed this information to police. The cellphones were recovered in Chatsworth.
Gunpath had testified that he was working for Naidu in 2009 when Naidu instructed him to buy a close corporation, Cupra Trading, so they could trade in duty credit certificates. He said Fakir had also worked in the business.
Gunpath had said that on the night of the murders he helped Naidu and Meer burn their clothes.
Mkhulise had testified that he was hired by Meer to clean the Westville house to which the two victims were lured.
Naidu and Meer were held in custody until sentencing next month.
The victims’ family hope the killers get double life sentences.
“The sentence must suit the crime. Let these boys’ (Fakir and Sudhoona’s) lives not be wasted,” said Fakir’s brother, Salim Hoosen. “Anything less than life would be an injustice.”
Fakir had two young children and Sudhoona’s son was three years old at the time of the murders.