Two British nationals plead guilty to entering South Africa illegally

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published May 15, 2020

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DURBAN: Two British citizens pleaded guilty to charges of obstructing the administration of justice and contravening the Immigration Act after they failed to stop at the Eswatini (Swaziland) border post in April and entered South Africa illegally.

James Hackett and Erkan Bali made their confessions at the Durban Magistrate’s Court before Regional Court Magistrate Anand Maharaj on Friday.

On the obstruction of justice charge, both Hackett and Bali were issued a R40 000 fine or 12 months imprisonment, suspended for five years, on condition they are not convicted of the same offence during the said period of suspension.

For contravening the Immigration Act, they were handed a R10 000 fine or three months imprisonment, suspended for five years, on condition they did not repeat the offence during the suspension period.

 As a gesture of good faith to the people of South Africa, the pair paid R15 000 each into the Solidarity Fund in support of government’s fight against the coronavirus.

On April 11, when it was not permissible for foreigners to enter the country due to the Covid-19 lockdown regulations that were in place, the two British men sped through the Golela border post.

They managed to evade police officers, who gave chase, and eventually drove to Durban.

A day later, they were arrested in Umbilo after police and a team from Tracker Connect traced their vehicle to a guest-house in the area.

For housing the two men, the owner of the establishment was also arrested at the time for having contravened the Disaster Management Act.

Investigations into the guest-house owners matters is continuing.

State prosecutor Ronitha Singh told the court that the pair had committed a serious offence in entering the country when it was in a State of Disaster.

And that the foreigners showed a blatant disregard for the safety and bodily integrity of South African citizens, when they failed to notify a medical practitioner so that the relevant COVID-19 procedures could be implemented

Singh also said that it was a costly exercise for both the government and the private sector to track the men.

Both Hackett and Bali were legally represented by law firm Roy Singh Attorneys.

Advocate Niren Rai, who read out a plea statement on behalf of Hackett and Bali said they understood and accepted the seriousness of their actions and were remorseful.

They will be held at Westville Prison’s Medium C Unit until their deportation is completed.

Elaine Zungu, KZN’s Director of Public Prosecutions, welcomed the prosecution and the efforts of the SAPS members in finalising the matter.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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