State ordered to return R30000 ‘heist’ money

CAPE TIMES

Reporter – Fatima Schroeder

THE Cape High Court has ordered that just less than R300000 in cash be returned to Mfuleniman, saying the state has not proved that the money was derived from criminal activity. The State believes that Mtuzimele Kulati masterminded a host of cash-in-transit robberies in the Western Cape. It is said that when police raided his properties in January, they found large amounts of cash, in large denominations, hidden in a mattress. Police has also received information from a car theft suspect that Kulati had been involved in a robbery in 2005 and that two of the vehicles allegedly stolen then had been used in two attempted robberies in January 2006. The state further alleged that Kulati had been in cellphone contact with a man arrested for being in possession of a stolen vehicle. It also argued that Kulati’s expenditure in 2005 was much greater than his earnings. In June 2006, the National Director of Public Prosecutions obtained an order allowing it to attach money seized at the properties. The NDPP returned to court to apply for it to be forfeited to the state. But Kulati opposed the application, saying he earned money buying and selling second-hand vehicles. He also has a panel-beating and spraypainting business in Mitchells Plain and was usually paid in cash, he said. In addition, he claimed, he was involved in buying and selling sheep. In his judgment, Justice Roger Cleaver said the NDPP had to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the money was the proceeds of unlawful activity. The NDPP submitted that the information provided by its informant was corroborated by what was found when police searched Kulati’s house. But, the judge said, the information was hearsay and inadmissable. In order to establish a link between the cash and criminal activity, the NDPP relied on the information of the robbery at Auto Carriers, and the fact that two of the stolen vehicles were allegedly used in two attempted robberies last year. But, the judge said, this did not indicate that Kulati was part of a syndicate. He said the fact that the money was hidden in the mattress and comprised notes of large denominations did not mean that it formed the proceeds of unlawful activity. The court ordered that the money be returned to Kulati.