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The State never proved its case against Sheryl Cwele, as was indicated in the trial court, the Supreme Court of Appeal heard on Thursday.
There was no indication in the evidence of “any suggestion that what was to be brought back was cocaine”, Cwele’s legal counsel Kemp J Kemp submitted.
The SCA was hearing argument in an appeal by Cwele, former wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, and Nigerian Frank Nabolisa, against their drug trafficking convictions and sentences.
Cwele was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. She was appealing only against her conviction.
Nabolisa was appealing both his conviction and sentence of 12 years imprisonment.
Both pleaded not guilty to conspiring to deal in cocaine, in procuring a woman, Charmaine Moss, to collect drugs in Turkey, and to procuring another woman, Tessa Beetge, to smuggle cocaine from South America.
Beetge was caught in Brazil with about 10kg of cocaine in her luggage, and was serving an eight-year sentence in that country.
Kemp submitted that the evidence against Cwele showed that the two women had only had to do “something” for Nabolisa.
“The one thing not proved was her knowledge of what was to be brought back,” he argued, adding that Cwele had no idea that Beetge was sent to South America.
Kemp argued that “one looks in vain” in the court records for proof that Cwele knew about the drugs.
“It was not shown she knew of the content (of the packages),” he said.
Kemp said no inference could be made on the facts of the case about the cocaine, as stipulated in the charges.
Legal counsel for Nabolisa, Koos van Vuuren, also submitted that proper analysis of the circumstantial evidence would lead to a conclusion he had not committed the offences as charged.
He submitted the State failed to prove the authenticity and reliability of cellphone records.
State prosecutor Ian Cooke admitted that drug dealers would never openly talk about drug shipments on phones, and that the courts must rely on “evidence” which was only based on inferences.
He also admitted the State’s case relied heavily on the fact that Beetge was caught with cocaine in Sao Paulo.
Cooke submitted that the number of coincidences in disputed recordings and other evidence was “staggering”.
Cooke asked the SCA to intervene and impose a heavier sentence on Cwele.
Kemp argued in reply that the trial court had already taken all aspects into consideration in sentencing, and that there was no need for the SCA to interfere.
Beetge’s mother Marie Swanepoel and her husband attended the appeal hearing.
“I am here in support of my daughter and want to know what happened,” she said.
Judgment was reserved. - Sapa