Bail granted af­ter three weeks to top cop ac­cused of R1m dagga theft

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - MUR­RAY WIL­LIAMS

A SE­NIOR Cape po­lice­woman ac­cused of steal­ing more than R1 mil­lion in seized dagga from her own po­lice sta­tion has been re­leased on bail – af­ter three weeks be­hind bars.

Princess Ben­jamin, 44, was sta­tion com­mis­sioner at Ma­cas­sar po­lice sta­tion when she was ar­rested on De­cem­ber 30 with an al­leged ac­com­plice, a woman con­sta­ble from Philippi East, Nosipho Pikini, 33.

Yes­ter­day, in the Som­er­set West Mag­is­trate’s Court, the pair were re­leased on R5 000 and R3 000 bail re­spec­tively – be­fore tak­ing des­per­ate mea­sures to evade the me­dia.

First, Ben­jamin’s high-pow­ered at­tor­ney William Booth gained per­mis­sion to drive the pair from in­side the court grounds, to avoid them hav­ing to walk out and face the press wait­ing out­side.

And then they sped away from Som­er­set West po­lice sta­tion in a new Mercedes-Benz sta­tion wagon with its East­ern Cape regis­tra­tion plate de­lib­er­ately masked with a sheet of pa­per and tape.

On De­cem­ber 3, more than half a ton of dagga, re­ported in the charge sheet as worth R1 182 000, was taken from ev­i­dence stores at Ma­cas­sar po­lice sta­tion.

The two were charged on five counts: deal­ing in drugs or pos­ses­sion of drugs, theft, fraud, cor­rup­tion and de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice, as pre­sented by se­nior pros­e­cu­tor Den­zil Sass.

Sass first told the court on Jan­uary 11 that the State was op­posed to the pair be­ing granted bail – cit­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ fears that the pair would in­tim­i­date State wit­nesses.

But af­ter days of heated ar­gu­ment by Booth, who rep­re­sented Ben­jamin, mag­is­trate N Magutywa yes­ter­day fi­nally ruled that the State had no grounds on which to deny the pair their free­dom.

In­stead, the court ruled that their lawyers had suc­cess­fully proved that it would be in the in­ter­ests of jus­tice to release them.

Rea­sons in­cluded the fact that the women were both moth­ers – to three and six chil­dren re­spec­tively – that, cer­tain fam­ily mem­bers were ill, that they had fixed prop­erty and that nei­ther held a pass­port.

Out­side the court, nu­mer­ous Ma­cas­sar res­i­dents tried to pe­ti­tion the court not to grant the pair bail, but this was not con­sid­ered le­git­i­mate grounds to deny bail.

The two were, how­ever, re­leased on strict bail con­di­tions.

Th­ese in­clude hav­ing to re­port to the po­lice once a week and their be­ing pro­hib­ited from leav­ing the prov­ince un­less they get the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ per­mis­sion.

In ad­di­tion, they were or­dered not to make any con­tact with any wit­nesses, or even po­ten­tial wit­nesses, and were or­dered to stay far away from the po­lice sta­tions where they served.

Out­side the court, Booth ex­pressed dis­may at the length of time it had taken to se­cure their bail – the two spent 23 days in cus­tody – ar­gu­ing that the mag­is­trate had ruled as he had al­ways sus­pected, that the State had no grounds to deny them bail.

Mag­is­trate Magutywa ruled that Booth had suc­cess­fully cross-ex­am­ined po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tor Faeez Philip to the point that Philip had had to ad­mit that the State ac­tu­ally had no grounds to deny bail.

Booth also de­cried the fact that he had had to gain a court or­der t o be g ranted ac­cess to po­lice doc­u­ments de­tail­ing the two’s alle ged crimes – without which he would not have been able to ap­ply for their release.

Pikini was rep­re­sented by at­tor­ney Zuk­isani Bobotyana, whose sur name was er­ro­neously en­tered on the charge sheet as “Bobe­jaan”.

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