Durban couple Mogenderan and Nirusha Gounden, left, alleged masterminds behind a drug factory a farm in oThongathi walked free from the Durban Magistrate's Court. They are with their legal representatives: Fazel Kara, Samlal Garbaran and Sunil Sing. Picture: Sne Masuku
Durban - After an eight-year court battle, Durban couple Mogenderan and Nirusha Gounden, alleged masterminds behind a drug factory at an oThongathi farm, walked free after the provincial director of public prosecutions (DPP) decided to withdraw charges.

The couple were arrested in March 2010 .

Their co-accused, Menogaran (Cliffie) Govender, was arrested two years later in connection with allegations of manufacturing and dealing in mandrax with an estimated value of R3.3 million.

They were all on bail. Charges were also withdrawn against Govender on Thursday.

The Goundens assets, including five cars and a farm in oThongathi, were seized by the Assets Forfeiture Unit.

The State had also seized Govender’s two properties in Springfield worth more than R3million, and his home was raided by the Hawks after an order issued by the high court in 2013.

The DPP at the time, Kenneth Samuels, said the raid in 2010 had recovered several documents which convinced them that the group was involved in drug manufacturing.

The documents also described what to do if police arrived at the house in connection with a drug investigation, line of questioning and techniques of interrogation by police.

During the trial, the State had requested a specimen of Mogenderan Gounden’s handwriting to verify it on some of the documents found at his farm.

The State also alleged that Nirusha was responsible for the signing off of magnesium fluoride orders, and had requested her handwriting specimen.

However, the DPP  took a decision to stop prosecution and withdraw the charges after realising there was some manipulation of certain documents and statements from the docket which had initially been submitted to court.

Prosecution

Advocate Moipone Noko, the provincial DPP, said they decided to stop the prosecution because of irregularities.

“To continue with the matter would have amounted to an unfair trial because there were some irregularities committed by prosecutors in the case. These are being addressed through appropriate steps.”

The trio’s legal team consisting of four defence attorneys - Fazel Kara, Samlal Garbaran, Sunil Singh and senior advocate Terry Price - said they had worked tirelessly on the case and were well prepared for the trial and to see it through.

Kara said the State suddenly realised they “basically had no evidence” against their clients after eight long years.

He said the matter had started in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court in 2010 and had been transferred to different courts over the past years. Last month it had resumed in the Durban Regional Court.

Gounden had spent 16 days in custody, and his wife seven days, after their arrests in 2010.

Walking out of court, the couple said although they were excited about getting their lives back, the case had taken everything away from them.

“Our lives have been at a standstill. We lost everything we had: properties, cars and a lot of money,” Gounden said.

He said the most painful event of the past eight years was an alleged assault in custody by the police.

Looking at the pictures from a file of his bruised face, he questioned what the State and the police would do to restore what he had lost.

“The case brought severe stress and pain for my family. I basically do not know how I would pick up the pieces of my life from this day forward,” he said.

Relieved

Although Nirusha and Govender looked relieved, they were both too emotional and overwhelmed to comment.

Singh said the couple were considering suing the State, and expected to begin proceedings as soon as possible.

Govender’s legal representative, Garbaran, said after the suffering - emotional and financial - the next step would be to launch a lawsuit against the State.