File photo: SAPS (Twitter)
File photo: SAPS (Twitter)

Illegal guest house operators sentenced for accommodating foreigners during lockdown

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published Mar 14, 2021

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Durban - Two British nationals entered South Africa illegally, via the eswatini border in April, at a time when Level 5 of the Covid-19 lockdown rules were in place.

Straight from making their perceived getaway from law enforcement authorities, the pair booked into a Durban guest house where they were eventually arrested.

The owner of the Glenmore Guest House in Umbilo and the manager were convicted and sentenced this week for accommodating the foreigners despite the lockdown.

Not only did manager Ahmed Othoman Elrabiey, 48, and Nazar Salman, 47, the owner, “intentionally” disregard Disaster Management Act regulations, it was found that the business was not licensed.

The investigation and prosecuting team also established that Elrabiey, an Egyptian citizen, defied the requirements of the work visa and, according to the zoning of the area, operating a guest house was not permissible.

They entered into a Section 105A plea and sentence agreement with the State regarding the five collective charges, which was endorsed by magistrate Bharath Singh at the Durban Regional Court on Friday.

The State was represented by prosecutor Ronitha Singh and the investigations were led by warrant officer Praveen Sukdeo of the SAPS KZN Provincial Investigation Unit.

For failing to confine himself to his residence, which was a contravention of the Disaster Management Act, Elrabiey received a R3000 fine or three months imprisonment.

R2000 or two months of imprisonment from that sentence was suspended for five years, provided he did not repeat the offence in the said suspension period.

He received a R9000 fine or three months imprisonment, of which R6000 or six months imprisonment was suspended over five years, provided he was not convicted with failing to abide by the conditions of his work visa.

Salman was handed a R3000 fine or three months imprisonment for operating a business without a licence.

Two months of imprisonment or R2000 from the sanction was suspended for five years on condition he did not re-offend during the suspension term.

For operating an accommodation business in an area that was not zoned for such an operation, he received a R15 000 fine or 24 months of imprisonment, of which R10 000 or 18 months was suspended for five years, provided he did not commit the same offence in that period.

Salman received a R15 000 fine or six months imprisonment, of which R10 000 or four months was wholly suspended for five years, on condition he did not repeat the offence in the suspension period.

James Hackett and Erkan Bali were the British citizens who made a dash for Durban after being turned away by border officials on April 11.

After speeding past border officials, they drove to Durban and checked in at the Glenmore Guest House.

The police and a security company eventually tracked their hired car to the establishment’s address.

They both pleaded guilty, in May, to an obstruction of justice charge and were handed a R40 000 fine or 12 months imprisonment each, suspended for five years, provided they did not repeat the offence in the said period. For contravening the Immigration Act, they also received a R10 000 fine or three months imprisonment each, suspended for five years, on condition they did not re-offend during the period in question.

As a gesture of good faith, both men contributed R15 000 each towards the Solidarity Fund, which aids the government’s fight against Covid-19.

Both men also agreed they undermined the workings of the country’s justice system and the rule of law.

Therefore, they were remorseful for their actions.

Sunday Tribune

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