Alleged Isis murder accused's family to sell Italian properties for legal fees
An alleged Isis-linked murder mastermind, accused of orchestrating the killing of two internationally recognised botanists in KwaZulu-Natal, is attempting to sell some of his family-owned properties in Italy to pay for his legal fees.
Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio briefly appeared alongside his wife Fatima Patel and their former Malawian boarder, Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa, in the Durban high court on Monday as they prepare to stand trial for the 2018 kidnapping and murder of British botanists Rodney and Rachel Saunders.
Advocate Jimmy Howse, representing all three accused, said he was in communication with Del Vecchio's family who are planning to sell some of their properties in Italy to come up with the money for the trio's legal fees.
He also argued for a two-month adjournment, to properly consult with his clients and take instruction before pre-trial.
“We need to arrange access to them in order to consult. As you would know, Del Vecchio and Mussa are being detained at C-max in Kokstad and Patel at Westville prison.”
Senior state prosecutor Mahen Naidu they had agreed on a date in May for pre-trial conference.
Judge Rashid Vahed adjourned the matter to May 10.
The trio have been charged with the kidnapping and murder of the Saunders' – an elderly, British-born Cape Town couple, in February 2018.
They also face charges of theft and counts relating to the contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.
They were arrested after the disappearance of the couple, who had been touring northern KwaZulu-Natal in search of rare plants and seeds.
Less than a week after the botanists went missing, the police pounced on Del Vecchio's hilltop camp in the foothills of the Endlovini area, in northern KZN.
The police allege that Del Vecchio planned and executed the killings.
The matter has been plagued by delays, with consultation being an issue, since Del Vecchio and Mussa were transferred to Ebongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad after prison officials said they had uncovered a plot which would jeopardise Westville prison - where they were initially held - in May last year.
The accused last year acquired the services of renowned advocate Howse after abandoning legal aid, but it is unclear who is paying their legal fees.
Farhad Hoomer, the Durban businessman who had been implicated in the 2018 Verulam mosque attack and a series of firebomb attacks at retail outlets in the months that followed, declined to comment when TimesLIVE asked him if he was paying for the trio's legal team. The case against Hoomer was struck off the roll in July last year.
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