Five men, including two Capetonians, appeared briefly in the Knysna Magistrate’s Court on Thursday in connection with what local police have now confirmed is the biggest cocaine bust in South African history.
The men were arrested two weeks ago after southern Cape police found about 1600kg of pure cocaine stashed in a cabin cruiser moored at the Knysna Waterfront. The haul has been valued at R420 million.
Southern Cape police spokesman Captain Malcolm Pojie said on Thursday: “It’s been confirmed as the biggest drug bust in South Africa.”
The accused are Yuwei You, 30, from Hong Kong, Chen Cuo, 57, and Zhi Liu, 51, both apparently Chinese but living in Johannesburg, and Capetonians Beverley Jones, 47, and Mogamat Adams, 41.
The five, held in custody since their arrest, will remain incarcerated over the festive season, with a bail application expected early in 2011. An exact date is yet to be set.
Prosecutor MP Heyns told the court that advocate Anthony Broadway of London, appointed to defend the three Asian men, had been held up in the air travel congestion caused by the foul weather besieging Europe.
Advocate Faried Stemmet - who’s also the mayor of Eden District - appeared for Adams and Jones and stood in for Broadway at Thursday’s brief hearing. Heyns said the court also had to find a Cantonese interpreter before the legal process could continue.
The massive bust followed a tip-off to police, who found the men at an upmarket Waterfront flat they were renting opposite where the cruiser was moored. Police initially found 48 bags of cocaine compressed into solid bricks and a subsequent more thorough search revealed another nine bags, each containing about 30kg of the drug. Pojie said the R1.5-million cabin cruiser had been confiscated and would be moved to either Mossel Bay or Cape Town for further forensic investigation.
The suspects are being held at an unnamed location for security reasons. The cocaine has been moved and stored at a secret location. Pojie said the bust was linked to international syndicate activity. The Hawks were investigating and further arrests could follow. The cocaine could have fetched about R8 billion on the streets. - Cape Times