Extradition threat draws groans from family members

Sunday Times / Aron Hyman

The word “extradition” appeared to hit the eight alleged members of the Black Axe standing in the dock in the Cape Town magistrate’s court this week like a tsunami.

The courtroom, packed with Interpol agents, Hawks members and police Crime Intelligence officers, was silent except for the voice of state prosecutor Robin Lewis reading out the indictment against the accused.

As Lewis told the court that the men were alleged to be part of the Black Axe – a transnational Nigerian organised crime syndicate – their family members gasped and moaned audibly in the gallery. The accused themselves exchanged wide-eyed stares when the pidgin translator explained that the charges against them were brought by the US.

Just minutes before, two women there to support the accused told the Sunday Times that they did not know how the men in their lives earned a living.

“The men don’t tell the women what they do,” said one who asked not to be named.

They scoffed at the mention of the name Black Axe. Their men were respected and hard-working members of society, they said.

They were shocked when the police raided their homes at dawn on Tuesday.

Further along in court proceedings, Lewis told the court that if extradited, the men could face as much as 60 years in a US federal prison. This brought on another loud moan by one of the women in the group.

After Lewis rad out the indictment, an attorney from prominent criminal law firm Mathewson Gess Attorneys in Cape told the court that he and his team needed time to prepare a response to the indictment.

The case was postponed to Tuesday when a formal bail application will be heard, after which the state hopes to launch an extradition hearing.

The accused did not look in the direction of their anxious supporters as they walked down the steps and into the court’s holding cells.

They will be kept in custody until their next appearance.