Durban - A doctor whose premises were used as a brothel has distanced himself from the illegal activities, the Durban Regional Court heard on Tuesday.
“I trusted Veena Budram and left her to conduct both businesses in the manner which she thought best,” Dr Genchen Rugnath said in an explanation of plea read to the court by his lawyer Anand Nepaul.
Rugnath, his wife Ravina and three other people are accused of human trafficking and keeping a brothel where children as young as 12 were kept in Durban's Point area.
The other three people are Sandile Patrick Zweni, 36, Nonduzo Dlamini, 24, and Bhabha Dubazini.
All five have pleaded not guilty to 156 charges including assault, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and racketeering.
“Accused five (Ravina) and I had no knowledge of any illicit activity occurring at Inn Town. Neither I nor accused five have received any benefit from illegal activity as alleged,” said Rugnath.
He denied knowing and working with Zweni, Dlamini and Dubazini.
Rugnath owned two lodges in central Durban: Down Town, in Smith Street, and Inn Town, in the Point area.
Rugnath said Budram was in charge of the lodges, but that he occasionally visited to check on the business.
He said Budram always accompanied him to Inn Town, as she said the area was not safe.
He said that in July 2004 he was hijacked after visiting Budram at Down Town to collect cash from the business.
“I was traumatised by the incident. I decided to stop collecting cash from the business and reduced my visits to Down Town.”
The court heard that Budram attended to all banking of the business, at first making deposits once a week, then twice a week, after which she did so when she wanted to, he said.
Rugnath said Inn Town stopped trading last year.
Budram last made a deposit on February 9, 2012, by which time she was depositing money a fortnight after it was collected.
In her explanation of plea, Ravina also denied any involvement in her husband's businesses.
In the document, which was read to the court by her lawyer Jay Naidoo, she said she had had no direct involvement in the operation and running of the lodges.
She been to the business premises occasionally, but in the company of her husband.
She said she was a caregiver and home-maker to her husband and children. The trial continues. - Sapa