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Brothel couple case review

By Sherlissa Peters Time of article published Jun 1, 2012

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Judgment has been reserved in the case of a Durban couple who are challenging their trial proceedings

after being convicted on 21 charges under organised crime legislation.

The charges include keeping a brothel, facilitating prostitution and racketeering.

Basheer Sayed and his Thai wife, Somcharee Chuchumporn, were convicted in the Durban Regional Court on May 10, 2010,

but have asked the Pietermaritzburg High Court to overturn their convictions.

If found guilty they could face 30 years in jail or a R100 million fine for running a brothel in Umbilo with women recruited from Thailand. Sentencing had been postponed pending the outcome of their review proceeding in the High Court.

The couple allege their trial was not properly interpreted.

In heads of argument presented before Judge Esther Steyn on Thursday, senior defence advocate Pingla Hemraj argued that the English of the interpreter, known only as “Kate”, had not been fluent and it had been difficult to understand what she had said.

Hemraj also submitted that Kate’s services had been used by the State when consulting witnesses before the trial, and also to interpret conversations between Chuchumporn and her legal representative.

“The interpretation of the evidence of the Thai witnesses contained more information than was actually conveyed by the witnesses while testifying, and she appeared to be using her prior knowledge of the matter to embellish the actual answers of the witness,” Hemraj said.

Hemraj said the record of the trial did not reflect that Kate had been sworn in as an interpreter in court. The defence is relying on case law which states that if it is proved that a sworn translator had not taken the general oath, the evidence that was interpreted becomes inadmissible.

The defence wants a new trial before a different magistrate.

The State submitted the legal representatives of the couple had not registered a complaint against the interpreter’s alleged non-proficiency in English at the trial – nor had they registered a complaint about the oath.

The State argued that it would not be in the interests of justice to start a new trial because all the witnesses who testified in the criminal trial had returned to Thailand, and that it would not be possible to get them back to testify. - Daily News

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