In control and close to tears: Study in contrasts as Thoshan Panday’s co-accused family appear for World Cup graft case
The State did not oppose bail for any of the co-accused quintet who arrived in court on Friday in the Durban businessman’s corruption case.
Arvenda Panday, the 69-year-old mother of criminally charged uMhlanga businessman Thoshan Panday, looked frail as she made her first appearance in the Durban Magistrates’ Court on Friday on graft charges relating to the R60-million 2010 Soccer World Cup police accommodation scandal.
The accused number five’s head was draped in a light scarf, coiled at her neck over a loose-fitting blouse, but even that could not disguise her rapid breathing as she tried unsuccessfully, almost coyly, to avert her eyes from the media.
Her physical appearance was in striking contrast to that of Thoshan’s wife – accused number six, 45-year-old Privisha Panday – who betrayed no emotion. She seemed, at least for now, perfectly in control.
Accused number seven, Seveesh Maharaj Ishwarkumar (44), stood, straight as a pin mostly, arms crossed on his chest, between Privisha and his own wife, 35-year-old Kajal Ishwarkumar, sister to Thoshan.
Kajal (accused number eight) was visibly uncomfortable and close to tears. Creases danced on her forehead for much of the 20-minute proceedings while she tried to disguise her face with her long hair, unless she was looking at magistrate Vanitha Armu.
Thirty-five-year-old Tasleem Rahimna – Thoshan’s former personal assistant and accused number nine – concluded the line-up. She too was visibly nervous and intent on hiding her face from cameras. Her full black dress and headscarf almost did the trick.
“Please just.. .uh… go easy with them, they are very nervous, it is a first appearance for all of them, they are not used to the media,” Jimmy Howse, SC, asked of the small media pool before proceedings started.
Howse is representing all five, he confirmed to the court. He is also representing the already charged Thoshan – out on bail – who was in and out of the courtroom or pacing just outside, presumably there in support of the group.
Proceedings were brief, cordial. Gone was the snippiness that was on display between prosecutor Talita Louw, Howse and the other defence lawyers at the initial appearances of accused one to four – former KwaZulu-Natal police colonel Navin Madhoe (51), Madhoe’s then subordinate, former captain Ashwin Narainpershad (52), retired KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni (52) and Thoshan (48).
The State did not oppose bail for any of the Friday quintet, with the amounts being set at R5,000 for Arvenda, Privisha and Kajal, while R10,000 was set for Seveesh and Tasleem.
Howse told Daily Maverick that all five would be pleading not guilty. The initial accused – all out on bail – have also made known their intentions to plead not guilty.
According to the State’s voluminous and well-crafted indictment, there are 275 counts faced by several of the accused. These include racketeering, fraud, forgery, uttering, corruption, failure to report an offence, attempts to defeat the administration of justice, extortion and money laundering.
The State has alleged that the criminal acts took place between September 2009 and April 2012 and are in relation to contracts for the Soccer World Cup, for which millions was spent on police accommodation and services in the province as security was beefed up.
It was Thoshan’s companies, and those of his relatives, that scored millions from the allegedly illegal and inflated deals. But, according to the State, Thoshan was ultimately in charge of all of the companies.
The indictment states that the nine worked together “to capture and manipulate the [supply chain management] system of SAPS: KZN through acts of fraud, corruption, forgery and defeating the administration of justice, to ensure that contacts would be awarded to entities associated with [Thoshan Panday], and his family, for the supply of goods and services as well as accommodation to the SAPS KZN. This conduct would lead to their personal financial benefit and/or the financial benefit towards the group of individuals they associated with.”
The matter is to be transferred to the Durban High Court, with all nine accused set to make their next appearance on 21 May. DM