A Chatsworth man has told how his close friends of about 18 years kidnapped him and tried to extort money from him after he refused to help them get a fraudulent loan from the bank where he worked.
Warren Timothy, 30, was testifying on Wednesday against his now former friends and fellow members of the Christian Revival Church - Silas Lutchman, Damion Chengian, Kelvin Chinnasamy, Sebastian Doraveloo and Calvin Meek.
Lutchman’s father is a senior pastor in the church.
The five men pleaded not guilty in the Durban Regional Court on Wednesday to charges of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and extortion. The State alleges the men kidnapped Timothy outside the Suncoast Casino in October 2008 in an attempt to get a loan of R70 000.
It is also alleged the men stole Timothy’s sunglasses, perfume bottles and amplifier, all worth about R24 000, from his BMW 325i.
On Wednesday Timothy described what happened on the night he was kidnapped and what led to his reporting the matter to the police.
He is to be cross-examined by the accused’s attorney, Devan Moodley, in April.
He said they were all good friends, “almost like brothers”.
They all attended the same church and Doraveloo was his cousin. “We are all no longer friends,” he testified.
He had worked at the Overport City branch of Capitec Bank at the time as a sales consultant, and Lutchman had contacted him a few days after his wedding for a loan.
“He said his computer business was suffering. I said I’d try to help him,” Timothy said.
However, Lutchman’s loan application was declined because a background check had listed him as a fraudster.
Lutchman’s employee also tried applying for a loan, but this was declined because he was blacklisted, Timothy said.
He refused to help when Lutchman arranged for a fake bank statement to be submitted.
Timothy said this upset Lutchman, who reprimanded him for not being a true friend.
He testified that Meek visited him at the bank, asking for his share of Timothy’s money, and that Meek roughed him up.
“I asked him what he was talking about. He picked me up and slammed me against the shop window. At that point I was very scared,” he said.
The following day, Timothy said, Chinnasamy came into the bank and showed him an e-mail from Lutchman, which had not yet been sent to the bank, stating that Timothy was conducting fraudulent loans and accepting bribes.
He testified that he was being blackmailed into granting this loan.
When he refused, the e-mail was sent and he was investigated and later cleared.
On Friday, October 10, 2008, Timothy was at the Vacca Matta nightclub at Suncoast with friends.
He said he received a call from a mutual friend from church who said someone was looking suspiciously into his car parked outside.
He realised he had been tricked when he saw Lutchman parked alongside his car.
He said that he was pushed into Lutchman’s VW Caravelle by Chengian, Chinnasamy and Doraveloo.
His relative and Chinnasamy began hitting him with their fists and kept asking him for money and why he did not help with the loan.
Lutchman then called Meek, he testified, and said: “The eagle has landed. The vultures are circling the carcass.”
Meek told Lutchman not to bring Timothy to his house, but rather to take him to Chesterville.
“I pleaded with them to let me go and I kept talking about our friendship,” he said.
They stopped at the Malvern Shopping Centre where, he said, Chengian took his bank cards and asked Timothy for his PIN.
He said he returned soon afterwards, saying Timothy did not have any money.
They left him at the Booth Road intersection that leads to Westville Prison.
Timothy said they drove to the Sasol garage nearby and soon afterwards returned and grabbed him.
At this point, Timothy testified, he was crying and was hysterical.
He was then forced to call a work colleague, whom they believed had money, and say he had been kidnapped by unknown men who demanded R200 000. His friend did not have the money.
Timothy said he was eventually taken back to his car and warned not to report the matter to the police.
He initially did not tell anyone, but told his parents a few days later after Lutchman allegedly scratched his car.
His parents contacted Lutchman’s mother who then arranged a meeting at the church, at which Lutchman denied the allegations.
Timothy then reported the matter to the police.
In 2012, the case came to court and through negotiations Timothy had agreed to an R80 000 settlement.
However, he reinstated the charges when he received only R4 000 in cash.
Timothy said he had been unemployed since 2011 when he had been dismissed by Capitec after fraud allegations had been made by Lutchman’s friend.
A criminal charge had been withdrawn, he told the court, and he was now waiting for his unfair dismissal matter to be heard in the Labour Court. - Daily News