Another string in the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) crime-fighting bow, aimed at reminding criminals that crime doesn’t pay, was activated in a matter before the Durban Regional Court this week.
Whether it is cash, property and or other valuables, the NPA has the power to attach assets of convicted persons, who are deemed to have derived benefits from their respective acts of crime.
To do this, the NPA must make a confiscation order application in terms of Section 18 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998, in court, and if granted, a criminal's assets can be seized.
The cash derived from the seizure of assets is then directed to the Criminal Assets Recovery Account (Cara), and believed to be used for the improvement of the country’s crime-fighting machinery.
Section 18 applications are driven by the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.
Michelle Ramlakan made a R10 000 contribution to the Cara on Friday after she pleaded guilty to a robbery charge against her, on Tuesday.
Apart from the 10-year prison sentence, which was wholly suspended for five years, provided she doesn’t repeat the offence, handed to her by Magistrate Sophie Reddy, Ramlakan was required to pay R10 000 in keeping with the NPA’s S18 application.
The charge against Ramlakan, 23, relates to her involvement in the December 2019 robbery of a well-known shop in a Chatsworth mall, where she previously worked.
In her plea statement, which her attorney Shireen Soobrathi read out during proceedings, Ramlakan alleged she was coerced by her former boyfriend, Tyrone Reddy and his friend Vernon Pillay, to help in robbing the shop where she worked.
“On one occasion, Reddy came with Pillay to the shop on the pretext of borrowing money from me to buy beers, while Pillay looked around for cameras and the entry and exit points to the shop. I then showed them the back exit,” she said.
Ramlakan told of how, on the same day, while Reddy and Pillay drove her home, Reddy asked her why she was not stealing from the owner as his business was lucrative.
When Ramlakan responded the owner was “like a father” to her, she claimed Pillay placed a gun on her neck and said if she did not help them rob the shop her family would be hurt.
Ramlakan agreed she would assist.
She also claimed that Reddy promised to “leave her alone”, which she viewed as a window of opportunity to end their “toxic” relationship, if she co-operated.
The two men allegedly told Ramlakan they arranged to send someone, who would rob the shop and she must co-operate.
When the robber arrived he asked Ramlakan if she was with them and he would shoot if she screamed, she replied that she was with them.
After the shop was robbed, Ramlakan pressed the panic button.
Police and the paramedics arrived at the shop as she became sick and experienced difficulty breathing.
With Reddy being her work emergency contact, he was called. She claimed that Reddy refused to let anyone near her and told her that she must take what happened to her grave.
Reddy was heading to Ramlakan’s home to fetch her medication and as he walked out of the shop, police searched him. Money was found on Reddy and in his car boot.
Ramlakan was then detained and she told police how things transpired.
She was searched and found to have a R100 note on her, while Reddy and Pillay allegedly had R78 000 in their possession and it is believed that more than R100 000 was taken during the robbery.
Ramlakan admitted that her actions were wrongful.
Soobrathi added that her client was “utterly remorseful”, the robbery ordeal had greatly traumatised her, she was now married and became a mother in May. She also apologised to the shop owner. Therefore, a non-custodial sentence would be appropriate.
State prosecutor advocate Kuveshni Pillay said Ramlakan had co-operated with police.
The State’s matter with Reddy and Vernon Pillay is yet to be finalised.
Advocate Rajendrie Naidoo from the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit, made the S18 application.
In sentencing Ramlakan, Magistrate Reddy said she was mindful that she was a first-time offender, co-operative, agreed to testify as an accomplice witness in Reddy and Pilllay’s matter and that she was the primary caregiver to her child.
The Sunday Tribune posed various questions to the NPA about the mechanics of S18 applications, its frequency of use, success and how proceeds are directed, including how victims of crimes would receive compensation for their losses but no response was received at the time of publication yesterday.