Law runs into language barrier as cocaine ship accused appear in court
Four Bulgarians and six Myanmar nationals filled the dock in the Vredenburg magistrate's court on Thursday after they were arrested this week in connection with one of SA's biggest drug busts.
Bulgarians Mario Vasev, 47, Asen Georgiev Ivanov, 51, Borislav Stoyanov Atanasov, 45, and Atanas Bikov, 53, were arrested on Monday night in Saldanha, north of Cape Town, along with the Myanmarese crew of a fishing vessel filled with nearly a ton of cocaine.
The captain of the ship, Kyaw Kyaw Han, 42, and his crew, including chief engineer Khin Aung, 55, and sailors Nyein Win, 28, Thaw Tin Win, 52, Kyaw Win, 36, and Zin Kyaw, 27, were also arrested in the late-night bust by various tactical law enforcement units and members of the Western Cape organised crime detectives.
The consignment is being analysed by the state's forensic laboratory services. The police estimate the value of the cocaine to be R583m.
The accused roped in some of the Western Cape's top criminal lawyers, who asked not to be named due to safety concerns.
The accused, wearing masks in line with Covid-19 protocols, attempted to hide their faces from the cameras in court.
The Bulgarian nationals were kitted in expensive outdoor attire.
It is believed that the ship, which was painted in the red, green, and white colour scheme of the Bulgarian national flag, was owned by Ivanov.
Their legal counsel told the court that none of the suspects were proficient enough in English to follow the court proceedings.
This argument was used to place a hurdle in front of the police investigators when they asked that none of the suspects be booked out for questioning by the police before interpreters could be sourced.
The state prosecutor told the court that a registered Bulgarian interpreter was available but that an interpreter for the Myanmar suspects might have to be sourced from overseas if necessary, as there were none in SA.
The case was remanded until March 12 for interpreters to be brought to Vredenburg.
The accused remain in custody until their next court appearance.