Owner knew of ‘brothel’ lodge search

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IOL sep 6  Rugnath and his wife, Ravina

The Mercury

Doctor Genchen Rugnath and his wife, Ravina. Photo:Sandile Makhoba

Durban - The manager of the Inntown Lodge, which police allege was used as a brothel in Durban’s Point area, said she gave police the go-ahead to search the premises after she was given permission to do so by the owner.

Veena Budhram was testifying 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 Tuesday.

The State alleges that 22 women and underage girls were recruited to work in the brothel, which was run from the 32-room lodge, owned by the Rugnaths.

It alleges that one girl was only 12 when she was recruited; others were between 13 and 25.

The girls were found during a search of the lodge in February last year.

All the accused have pleaded not guilty to 156 charges.

The case is now in a “trial within a trial”, in which the defence is questioning the legitimacy of a search warrant and the admissibility of evidence obtained during the search last February.

The defence claims that there were problems in the affidavit used to apply for a search warrant, made by the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Cyril Freese, and that it should not have been used to obtain the search warrant.

State advocate Yuri Gangai said Budhram was being called to testify to state that she had given the police permission to search the premises, irrespective of whether the search warrant was legitimate or not.

Budhram said she was called by Freese, who told her that he was from the Organised Crime Unit and wanted to search the lodge.

She said she then called Rugnath and told him about Freese’s request.

“I made a call to Dr Rugnath and I told him there is organised crime police who want to search the lodge and they have a search warrant. He told me they could go ahead and search.”

During cross-examination Budhram, who was initially arrested as an accomplice in the matter but had the charges against her withdrawn, said she knew Zweni had been “selling girls and drugs” but had not reported this to police before her arrest.

She said she would often “chase him away” from the lodge because there were police officers patrolling nearby.

She also admitted that the charges against her were dropped only after she met the prosecutors.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

The Mercury

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