Durban - Eleven of the 12 people arrested in connection with a R5 million drug-packaging operation at an uMhlanga Rocks house claim they were visiting relatives, looking for a job or had other innocent reasons for being at the home, and were completely unaware of the drugs.
The 11 were granted bail in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
The remaining accused, Hassan Gihunga, abandoned bail after the State said it would oppose his application for it.
Police had initially been opposed to bail for all 12, claiming they were potential flight risks, but prosecutor Dinesh Nandkissor agreed on Wednesday that bail could be granted to the 11.
“The addresses have been verified, and they do not have pending cases against them. We have also discussed bail amounts with their attorney that will ensure they will attend court.”
Ommie Sheik Mohammed, Nawaaz Sheik Mohammed, Rafiq Sheik Mohammed, Jameelah Sheik Mohammed, along with Sizeka Mangaliso, Haroon Omar, Faiza Khan, Philiswa Kolisile, Altaaf Hoosen Sayed, Zaakir Bobat and Laila Sayed have been charged with dealing in heroin and methaqualone (Mandrax).
Police found at least 20 000 Mandrax tablets, several hundred straws of heroin and 4.5kg of heroin powder at the house.
The police estimate the drugs have a value of R5m, and that the house was being used solely for packaging.
Police also found R220 000 in cash at a nearby International Bank Vault safety deposit box.
Ommie was granted bail of R100 000, and the rest were given bail of R50 000 each.
They were ordered to report to their nearest police station twice a week.
According to affidavits deposed to by the accused, they all claimed that their presence at the house was completely innocent, and they denied any involvement in the crime.
Ommie Sheik Mohammed, 43, said she was far from being a “major kingpin in a drug syndicate”, and was a housewife who ran a successful business manufacturing lime chutney.
She claimed the R220 000 was money obtained through her business, and the confiscation of the cash had left her “financially embarrassed”.
She said she had been on her way to the Souk Indian fair when she was called to the house to meet a man named “Yusuf” who was renting the property.
Ommie, who is related to the Sheik Mohammeds and Sayed, claimed that she had been threatened by the police while she was in custody.
Sayed said he had taken Ommie, his aunt, to the property to see “Yusuf”.
Jameelah and Khan said they were going to the fair with Ommie and didn’t know why they had gone to the house.
Jameelah and her husband, Bobat, who said they worked for Bobat’s father’s maintenance company, confirmed that they were living at the Chartwell Drive property, and said they had been offered occupation at the house by “Yusuf”.
Nawaaz, who matriculated last year, and his brother, Rafiq, claimed they had gone to the house to visit their cousin, Jameelah.
Sizeka Mangaliso said she was a live-in domestic worker who worked for Ommie, while Kolisile said she had been hired by “Yusuf” to clean the uMhlanga property.
Omar, who is a pensioner, claimed he had gone to the house to ask Yusuf for a job.
Laila Sayed did not specify why she was at the house.
The case was adjourned to March.