Convicted drug dealer fights against forfeiture of home

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Durban -

Convicted drug dealer Tracey Anne Pretorius, who was released from jail this week after a judge set aside her eight-year jail term, ordering that she be re-sentenced, is still fighting against the forfeiture of her Durban North home in which the basement dagga laboratory was situated.

The State says the house at 94 Briar Lane was an “instrumentality of the offence”, and the State is entitled to take it away from her.

But Pretorius is putting up a fight, insisting she is innocent and it will mean her children will have nowhere to live.

The house was initially “preserved” by the State in late 2011 in terms of an order of the Durban High Court.

Curator Trevor White reported that the house had a value of about R1.7 million, with a bond of almost R844 000, and Pretorius also owed almost R10 000 to the municipality.

White said in his report before the court that it had been agreed that she could continue living there and she would make “the necessary payments”. In May last year Pretorius was jailed for eight years along with her boyfriend, Tyrone Hofland, and friend Travis Bailey. Two “workers”, Bonzile Chutshela and Senzele Dlezi, were each given five-year sentences.

 

White told The Mercury the bond had not been paid. Last year, through relatives, he had tried to persuade Pretorius to allow him to sell the house, put the money in a trust account and, depending on the outcome of the forfeiture application, the money could be given to her or the State. Pretorius had refused.

Her opposition to the forfeiture - which will be argued in the high court at the end of next month - is shaky, because she mainly relies on her alleged innocence and, since she deposed to her affidavit, her appeal against conviction has been turned down, as has her attempt to have her conviction reviewed.

Pretorius and her co-accused were arrested after a police raid during which 44kg of dagga, worth about R2.2m, was discovered under cultivation in a basement.

Pretorius, in her affidavit, describes the basement as a “void area” built illegally by the previous owner of the house and bricked up.

She claimed she leased an office next to the “void” to Bailey and that unbeknown to her, he created a secret opening, which was hidden behind computers and boxes.

She said she thought the excessive electricity bills were because the house was large, had three-phase electricity, three geysers, two pool pumps and almost 100 down lights.

She claims she had a good job and no need to get involved with crime.

She denied allegations that, under instruction from the municipality, the previous owner had been forced to fill the area with sand and that this had been deliberately removed to create the lab.

But in reply Kenneth Samuels, the deputy director of public prosecutions in the Asset Forfeiture Unit, said a council official had confirmed that the previous owner had chipped up the floor and deposited soil to render it uninhabitable.

 

Pretorius and her co-accused are expected to make a brief court appearance in the Durban Magistrate’s Court this morning, and the case will be adjourned to prepare reports for re-sentencing.

This came about after Judge Piet Koen, in considering their review application, found there was a “perception of bias” in the sentencing process by trial magistrate Najama Kathrada.

The Mercury


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