04/07/2014 DURBAN. From left its Ruwain Meer and Priyen Naidu who are accused of muder. PICTURE: SIYANDA MAYEZA

Durban - Umhlanga businessman Priyen Naidu and the man he hired to kill his business partner were on Wednesday each sentenced to life imprisonment.

Naidu and Ruwain Meer will also each serve a concurrent 20-year sentence for the murder of the partner’s relative.

Meer sighed after Durban High Court Judge Mohini Moodley handed down sentence while Naidu showed no reaction and promptly applied for leave to take his conviction and sentence on appeal.

While the judge ruled his conviction would stand, she granted him leave to take his sentence on appeal.

Naidu’s application for bail, pending his appeal, was refused.

The families of the victims, Chatsworth businessman Zainool Fakir, 32, and his 27-year-old nephew, Akbar Sudhoona, were relieved at the life sentences, but had hoped for a harsher sentence for Sudhoona’s murder.

Fakir and Sudhoona were brutally assaulted and later shot in the head at close range. Their bodies were found in the boot of Fakir’s car in West Riding, Sherwood, on May 14, 2009.

Their cellphones and watches had been stolen, but Judge Moodley found that it had not been a random robbery, but a planned murder.

The motive is not known, but the State had argued that Fakir had planned to start a business on his own, and Naidu, his business partner, had hired Meer to kill him for R50 000.

Naidu and Meer had pleaded not guilty in 2011 to murder as well as to a charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances. In July, Judge Moodley convicted them of the murders and acquitted them on the robbery charge.

The court found that Fakir had gone to Sherwood with his nephew to meet Naidu, who had not expected Sudhoona.

“He (Sudhoona) was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is unfortunate (he) was present,” Judge Moodley said. “They were severely assaulted and each shot twice at close quarters. The deceased must have experienced extensive pain and terror.”

Naidu, 35, and Meer, 38, had hosted a “cocaine party” in uMhlanga that night.

Witnesses had testified to seeing Naidu and Meer leaving together wearing similar clothing and when they returned they had burnt their clothes in a wheelbarrow. Investigating officer, Warrant Officer Sujit Rohith, had testified to finding fabric remains in a wheelbarrow at the uMhlanga premises where the party was held.

The court had also heard that a blanket found in the boot of Fakir’s car belonged to the woman Meer was living with in Westville at the time. She had confirmed the blanket belonged to her and that Meer had told her Naidu had offered him R50 000 for the “hit”.

Cellphone records had placed Naidu in the vicinity of the crime scene. Naidu had claimed he was in the area to fetch his mistress to take her to the party. Meer had claimed he left the party to buy more cocaine.

During arguments for sentencing, both men’s legal counsel argued that the murders were not pre-meditated.

Meer’s lawyer, advocate Ravi Reddy, also contended that there was a large quantity of narcotics and alcohol consumed before, during and after the murders which must have had a negative effect on Meer’s mental capacity.

Judge Moodley maintained the murders had been premeditated and said the two men had made every effort to destroy evidence.

She felt that Naidu had been the catalyst for the murders and that his action was more reprehensible than the one who fired the shots.

She described Naidu as “calculating and deceitful” and felt the deceased were shown no mercy.

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