‘Man paid money to have his Indian-origin wife killed’

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

LONDON - A British businessman, whose Indian-origin wife was shot dead while the couple were on honeymoon in South Africa, paid to have her killed, a South African court has heard.

Shrien Dewani allegedly offered his taxi driver 1,300 pounds to have his newlywed wife Anni killed, the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town, South Africa, has heard, the Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

Anni, the 28-year-old engineering graduate of Ugandan-Indian descent from Sweden, was killed in Cape Town Nov 13 when two men hijacked the car she and her Indian-origin British husband were travelling in.

The dramatic twist came as state prosecutor Rodney de Kock outlined the terms of a plea bargain deal agreed with Zola Tongo, the taxi driver hired by Shrien to drive the couple around Nov 13.

He told the court: “The alleged hijacking was in fact not a hijacking, but part of a plan of subterfuge which Shrien Dewani, the husband of the deceased, and the accused had designed to conceal the true facts, to wit: that the deceased was murdered at the instance of her husband.”

Shrien, 30, and his wife were driving back to their five-star hotel in central Cape Town when they agreed to take a detour through Gugulethu, which is one of Cape Towns most impoverished townships.

But within three minutes of leaving the motorway, two gunmen hijacked the taxi.

According to Shrien, after they had robbed the couple of all their valuables, the men kicked him out of the taxi. His wifes body was discovered several hours later in the back of the abandoned taxi.

Three men have so far been arrested in connection with the incident. Besides the 31-year-old driver, the other two are Xolile Mngeni, 23, and Mziwamadoda Qwabe, 25.

The three South Africans have been charged with murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

De Kock said that Tongo had first taken the couple from Cape Town International Airport to the Cape Grace Hotel on the City’s waterfront Nov 12, the day before the killing.

After their arrival, Shrien allegedly told Tongo to procure a hitman to have “a woman” killed for 15,000 rand (about 1,300 pounds).

In a confession read out to the court, Tongo said: “After we arrived at the hotel, Shrien Dewani approached me alone and asked me if I knew anyone that could ‘have a client of his taken off the scene’.”

“After some discussion with him, I understood that he wanted someone, a woman, killed.

“He said he was willing to pay an amount of 15,000 rand. Shrien Dewani said he had US dollars and could pay in US dollars.”

“We agreed that Shrien Dewani and I would be ejected from the vehicle and that the female occupant had to be killed,” Tongo claimed.

“I also knew that the deceased would be kidnapped, robbed and murdered… after Shrien Dewani had been ejected from the vehicle in accordance with the plan,” said Tongo.

Tongo was jailed for 18 years and is expected to give evidence against Mngeni, 23, and Qwabe when they go on trial next year.

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority declined to comment on whether it would now be seeking Shrien’s extradition.

Shriens spokesman, Max Clifford, said: “It’s ludicrous and outrageous to suggest that Shrien had involvement whatsoever in his wife’s death.”

“We were warned to expect what has happened today because our South African lawyers said this is often how cases develop there. I spoke to Shrien a short while ago and he is beside himself.”

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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