Durban - Eights years after a eMmdloti businessman was convicted of hiring a hit on his business partner his appeal was heard in the Durban High Court on Friday.
Convicted killer Pranesh Heralal, now 47, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the July 2004 murder of his business partner Deenadayalan Govender.
Govender, then 59, was shot dead at a building site in Verulam on July 16, 2004. Heralall and Govender had been partners in a business known as Larkspur Farm Services CC.
Heralal has been out on R500 000 bail since his conviction pending the outcome of his appeal.
In April 21, 2011 Judge Thumba Pillay granted Heralal leave to appeal his conviction citing substantial and compelling circumstances to warrant his release.
The hitmen Khethukuthala 'Bobo' Chamane, was sentenced to 20 years. He died while out on bail before the appeal could be heard.
The court heard that Heeralall had Govender killed to claim from an insurance policy he had taken out on him (Govender).
Each had taken a policy on each other to ensure that their joint business would not fall into debt if either died.
During sentencing Judge Pillay had labelled the crime “a revolting murder for money”.
In argument before the appeal court Advocate Dashendra Naidoo and Advocate Shane Matthews said that the State had failed to prove Heralall was in financial difficulty at the time of the killing and had a motive to kill Govender.
Poking holes in the State's case which included the State's 'star witness' Riaz Sathar they argued that Sathar who turned State witness was a self-confessed criminal, liar and police informant.
They argued that the trial court should not have accepted his evidence and should have found that he had the hallmarks of a shifty and untruthful witness who had a fertile mind to fabricate evidence and ought to have rejected his evidence.
They further argued that Sathar's version had a number of contradictions citing one example in that he told the court that after the deceased was killed he did not want to become further involved, but testified that after the killing he paid the Chamane at Kingsgate.
The also argued that much of the State's case was based on rumours and that robbery was a possible motive for the killing of the deceased.
They further argued that the version that Heralall had paid Sathar with a kombi to carry out the hit was not true, when in fact it was a legitimate transaction and others were putting a spin on it.
The State argued that the fact of the matter was that Heralall did receive the proceeds from the insurance policy and from that perspective was in a vulnerable position as a prime suspect.
With regard to the money paid to private investigator Bushy Singh, the State argued that Heralall was fearful of Singh's reputation which preceded him.
In court documents it said that shortly after the death the wife of the deceased had launched a civil claim for the insurance payout. The application was opposed in 2005 and is still pending.
This week Govender's son Kilen, 42, said it has been 15 years since his father's death and while nothing will bring his father back, he firmly believed that if a person is found guilty of a crime they must do the time.
Kilen and his mother Selvie, 66, were at the forefront of the 6 year trial.
He said the continuous appeals have opened old wounds time and time again.
Speaking to POST this week Kilen said his father would have celebrated his 72nd birthday on August 1.
He described his father a gentle giant who was friendly to everyone.
State Advocate Vasie Chetty argued that Sathar was the 'go between' who had the job of procuring the hitmen who roped in Chamane to carry out the hit.
They further argued that a robbery was not possible as the deceased was found with his watch, R2800 cash in his pockets, cellphone and his vehicle key.
In their case they said Sathar had been a taxi owner and knew Chamane as a person who frequented the taxi rank.
He told the court that he paid Chamane R15 000.
The State said that it was Heeralal who paid Chamane and pointed out the location of Govender on the day of the murder.
Judgement has been reserved.