Durban - A police officer’s concession that a raid on a Point property, which police allege was being used as a brothel, was “illegal” was damning enough to have all the evidence obtained during the search ruled inadmissible.
This was the submission made by advocate Jay Naidoo in the trial of Durban doctor Genchen Rugnath, his wife, Ravina, and three others – Sandile Zweni, Nduduzo Dlamini and Bhabha Dubazani – in the Durban Regional Court on Wednesday.
The State alleges that 22 women and underage girls, aged from 13 to 25, were recruited to work in the brothel, which was run from the 32-room lodge owned by the Rugnaths.
The accused, who are facing 156 charges – including assault, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and racketeering – have pleaded not guilty.
Naidoo, who is acting for Ravina, was presenting his argument in the trial within a trial which was held to test the validity of the search warrant.
The defence alleges that the affidavit used to get the search warrant, which was written by investigating officer Cyril Freese, had not been dated or properly commissioned.
Naidoo pulled no punches during his address, in which he said that nothing Freese had said in his testimony during the trial within a trial had “any credibility or reliability”.
He added that Freese had conceded during cross-examination that he believed the search was illegal.
“He conceded that the search was illegal, and he was the person who applied for the warrant, deposed to the affidavit and executed the search. What possible evidence from the State can gainsay that concession?”
He said the State’s argument that they could rely on other alternatives, if the search warrant was invalid, was flawed.
The State had argued that the search was legitimate, as the search warrant was valid. However, if the court found that it was invalid, then Freese had nevertheless obtained permission from the manager of the lodge, Veena Budhram, to perform the search.
The State further submitted that if the consent was not legally obtained, then the search was still lawful, as the police were acting on the premise that there was a crime taking place at the property, and by law they were allowed to search without a warrant. But Naidoo said the State could not rely on the alternatives.
“The police had a warrant, and they made it clear they were searching in terms of that warrant. If that warrant is invalid, then the search is automatically invalid.”
The case continues.