Lit­tle Gu­jarat own­ers walk free

UKZN Med­i­cal School case struck off the roll


VARSHA Bhatt cried tears of joy and re­lief on Thurs­day af­ter­noon when the UKZN Med­i­cal School case was struck off the court roll. Bhatt, 45, her hus­band Hiteshku­mar, 47, own­ers of Lit­tle Gu­jarat restau­rant, and their co-ac­cused Preshni Hi­ra­mun, 55, a busi­ness­woman, were ar­rested in May last year.

They faced charges re­lated to fraud and the con­tra­ven­tion of the Pre­ven­tion and Com­bat­ing of Cor­rup­tion Ac­tiv­i­ties Act.

The State al­leged the ac­cused sold places at UKZN’s med­i­cal school for as much as R500 000.

The cou­ple’s at­tor­ney, Roy Singh, said his clients could now fo­cus on pick­ing up the pieces of their lives.

“Their health, busi­ness and even friend­ships suf­fered. They have been liv­ing in South Africa for 20 years and built a great brand in Lit­tle Gu­jarat. Their ar­rests af­fected them per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally.”

Singh said the cou­ple had co-op­er­ated with the Hawks and would con­tinue to do so.

“What was even more hurt­ful was when their fam­i­lies liv­ing in In­dia and Lon­don heard of their ar­rests. Varsha’s par­ents fell ill. How­ever, her pass­port was taken away and she could not visit them,” he said.

Singh said that while their rep­u­ta­tion was de­stroyed, the Bhatts al­ways had faith in the South African jus­tice sys­tem.

“The man­ner in which my clients were ar­rested – by SAPS mem­bers in riot gear – had shaken their be­lief in the le­gal sys­tem. How­ever as the mat­ter pro­gressed their faith and con­fi­dence in the le­gal sys­tem was reaf­firmed and the rul­ing last week was a joy­ous mo­ment for them. They re­gard South Africa as their home and had at no stage con­sid­ered leav­ing.”

On Thurs­day, the State ap­plied for a year-long ad­journ­ment so that the Hawks could con­tinue with foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tions into data they had pre­vi­ously seized from the ac­cused.

Mag­is­trate Cor­rel Lan­guage with­drew the charges after the State called for an ad­journ­ment.

Jac­ques Botha, rep­re­sent­ing Hi­ra­mun said: “Just for the mo­ment, she be­lieves that jus­tice was done but ob­vi­ously the mat­ter isn’t over.

“She has been the sub­ject of so­cial me­dia bul­ly­ing, her rep­u­ta­tion has been ru­ined and it has af­fected her phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally.”

Botha said it was dis­ap­point­ing that the State had “just a few ex­perts” that could deal with cases of this mat­ter.

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