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All 17 accused in a multi-million-rand gold smuggling case, allegedly masterminded by four brothers, denied guilt in the Bloemfontein High Court on Tuesday.
The prosecution spent most of Monday and Tuesday morning outlining more than 130 charges against the 17 accused.
The first four accused, the Msimango brothers - Sibusiso, 34, Sifelane, 44, Rise, 31, and McDonald, 28 - face charges of racketeering, money laundering, theft, gold smuggling and other related charges running separately and together.
Sifelane was killed in a car crash on the first night of the trial, while out on bail last week. He was buried in Welkom over the weekend.
The group's lawyer Johann Nel told Judge Johann Daffue the accused would not like to make any formal statements and the onus rested on the State to prove the allegations. Nel said the group would like to use their right to silence in the matter.
The State alleges that the Msimango syndicate procured, refined, sold or smuggled unwrought precious metals (gold) for profit for the benefit of its members and associates.
The syndicate allegedly operated between 1998 and 2008 in Welkom in the Free State, North West, and Gauteng.
The unlawful proceeds Ä apparently worth millions of rands - were laundered through the purchase of vehicles, luxury items and property.
After the pleas were read, State prosecutor Danie Pretorius gave Judge Daffue a quick overview of the State’s case.
Referring to a huge chart against the courtroom’s wall, Pretorius explained the links between the brothers, transactions in bank accounts, other accused, and properties such as farms and smallholdings.
He submitted the State would show the brothers were the primary role players involving the transactions and properties where illegal gold processing took place.
“The State would show the brothers were the managers of the enterprise. Without them there was no enterprise.”
Pretorius said the three women accused, two wives of the brothers and a girlfriend, were used to launder the illegal proceeds.
The State submitted only two of the accused - two women - had legal jobs and that the rest were unemployed, but some had properties registered in their names.
The State’s first witness was Jacobus Meyer, who worked for Goldfields Protection Services as part of a national task team against gold smuggling.
Meyer testified how he observed Sibusiso Msimango meeting with another man at a property in Walkerville, south of Johannesburg, in 2002. A police raid on the premises delivered four pieces of raw gold, which weighed more than 2.8kg, and an illegal gold processing plant.
Sibusiso was not arrested at the time.
The trial continues. - Sapa