State to retry brothel case couple

Durban -

The National Prosecuting Authority is going ahead with its racketeering case against two alleged brothel-keepers whose convictions were overturned on a technicality last year.

File photo. Credit: Independent Newspapers

Basheer Sayed and his Thai wife, Somcharee Chuchumporn, were charged with running a brothel in Bartle Road, Umbilo.

They were convicted of racketeering by Durban Regional Court magistrate Trevor Levitt in 2010.

This was the first time in South Africa a conviction for this offence had been secured in relation to prostitution and human trafficking.

The court found the couple guilty of keeping a brothel, living off the proceeds of a brothel, aiding and abetting foreigners, and money laundering.

But the couple took the matter on review before sentencing, arguing that the Thai translation during the case had been poor, infringing on their rights to a fair trial.

Judge Esther Steyn agreed and ordered that the trial be held afresh.

However, it seemed unlikely that the trial could begin afresh because the State’s key witnesses, Thai women, had been sent back to Thailand and there was reluctance by Thai nationals to serve as an interpreter in this and similar cases.

On Thursday, the couple made a brief appearance in the Durban Regional Court and the case was adjourned to April.

Prosecutor Val Dafel said statements from the docket and the charge sheet would be given to the defence so it could prepare for the trial.

Provincial NPA spokeswoman Natasha Ramkisson confirmed that a new trial would be held.

She would not comment on whether the Thai women would be called back to the country to testify and said that the case was at a sensitive stage.

“A new charge sheet is being drafted, but we cannot say any more at this stage,” she said.

In the first trial, the couple pleaded not guilty.

They did not testify in their defence.