Reporter – Dianne Hawker
The State has been ordered to return nearly R300000 seized from the suspected ring leader of a cash-in-transit syndicate. Last week Cape High Court Judge Roger Cleaver ordered the Asset Forfeiture Unit to return R287000 seized from the Mfuleni home of Mtuzimele Kulati. The National Director of Public Prosecutions had applied for the forfeiture after a preservation order was granted by Judge Abe Motlala in July 2006. In Janaury last year police seized the money, R200000 of which was hidden in a mattress in Kulati’s bedroom. A further R80000 was found in a potato bag and R7690 in Kulati’s pockets. Police had received a tip-off from informant Xolisa Mfutwana, a suspect in a vehicle theft case. Mfutwanan had told police that while he was employed as a security guard at Atuo Carriers in Bellville South, Kulati and two others had recruited him to help steel vehicles from the company. After stealing four cars on November 28, 2005, Kulati had driven Mfutwana home. One of the vehicles was later used in an attempted robbery on a cash-in-transit vehicle. A second vehicle was found abandoned, riddled with bullet holes, after a successful heist. Mfutwana later told police of Kulati’s involvement in the vehicle theft and that he was involved in a cash-van-heist syndicate. He also told police where Kulati was hiding the money, which Mfutwana claimed was stolen. Kulati wrote in his opposing affidavit that the money was the proceeds of his second car sale business. He said he also ran a panelbeating business in Mitchells Plain. In giving his ruling, Judge Cleaver said Mfutwanan’s evidence regarding kulati’s involvement in a cash-in-transit heist syndicate “is hearsay and as such is not admissible”. Judge Cleaver said the evidence presented in the hearing did not prove that Kulati was invovled in a cash heist syndicate. “I do not consider that his involvement in the theft and the fact that the two stolen vehicles were later used in a robbery and an attempted robbery justify the inference that he was part of a syndicate which was responsible for cash heists, either while he was in detention or before,” he said. “Even if I should be wrong on this score, his involvement in the theft of the four vehicles does not establish a link to cash which was found in his possession. No evidence was presented to suggest that he was involved in any armed robbery prior to January 6 (when his house was raided),” Judge Cleaver said.