Previous convictions emerge as five in court over R400m cocaine-in-a-boat case

23 August 2021 - 17:55 By shonisani tshikalange
Police in June found 800kg of cocaine in the hull of a boat being towed on the N1 in Gauteng. Six men have been arrested in relation to the case.
Police in June found 800kg of cocaine in the hull of a boat being towed on the N1 in Gauteng. Six men have been arrested in relation to the case.
Image: Supplied: HAWKS

Three of five men accused of operating a pure cocaine exportation syndicate have previously been convicted for dealing in abalone, the Pretoria magistrate's court heard on Monday.

Neil Pieter van Zyl, 38, Michael Norman, Rashied Baderoen, 48, Rafiek Baderoen, 44, and Jaco de Kock, 48, appeared in court on Monday.

The five men are believed to be linked to a cocaine syndicate and are being charged for dealing in drugs valued at R400m. They told the court that they intend to plead not guilty.

The case is linked to a huge drug bust in June in which 800kg of compressed pure cocaine was found inside a boat being towed on a Gauteng freeway.

Another co-accused, Valdas Tenikaitis, was not in court on Monday due to being in isolation for Covid-19 — but he indicated to the court during his last appearance that he intended abandoning a bail application.

Van Zyl told the court in an affidavit that he had been previously convicted for racketeering in an abalone-related matter which was finalised in 2018.

“I have no intention to live the life of a fugitive and have no means to do so. There is no likelihood that my release on bail will endanger any member of the public. There is no likelihood that I will attempt to evade my trial,” he said.

He also stated that he was diabetic and his health had been compromised by his incarceration. “Due to my medical condition of being a diabetic, I might likely die if not granted bail,” he said.

The Hawks arrested Van Zyl when they discovered the 800kg of compressed pure cocaine.

“I was unaware that there were drugs in the boat,” he said.

Norman, meanwhile, said if he were not released on bail, his employees, who depend on him, will lose their jobs. He said a refusal of bail would also affect his two minor children.

Norman told the court he also had a conviction related to dealing in abalone. “After my arrest I was released on bail and the matter was on the roll for about seven years,” he said.

He said he was arrested on June 12 at his home and was informed that he was being arrested for dealing in drugs.

“I intend to stand trial. I am prepared to adhere to any reasonable bail condition,” he said.

Rashied Baderoen, who said he is one of the directors at a logistics company, said he has been suffering since his arrest due to being asthmatic. He said he had a previous conviction in relation to abalone dealing and had been sentenced to three years. He denied any involvement in the cocaine case.

Rafiek Baderoen, who is related to Rashied, said he was also a director at a logistics company.

“I [deny] any involvement in drug dealing,” he said.

Jaco de Kock told the court that he was self-employed and has an individual commercial abalone fishing quota issued by the department of fisheries and forestry. He said he has had it for 15 years and was also a registered commercial driver.

De Kock said he was one of four directors at a logistics company and was also a partner in a tourism company which was involved in rendering boat cruises, predominantly to tourists, in Table Bay.

“Upon my arrest, I was informed that I am being charged for allegedly dealing in drugs, which was allegedly committed on June 2,” he said, adding that he had no knowledge of the allegations and no previous convictions or pending cases.

The matter was stood down to Tuesday for the continuation of bail applications and for judgment on media applications to film the proceedings.

The Hawks said Ahmad Isa, 41, was also on their wanted list “for his alleged involvement in the R400m worth of drugs uncovered on the N1 highway in Pretoria on June 2, when Van Zyl was arrested”.