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Human trafficking accused appear in court

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The Johannesburg Magistrates Court has granted amendments to bail conditions to accused number one and denied bail amendments to accused number six of seven Chinese nationals arrested for alleged human trafficking and the violation of South Africa’s labour laws.

Delivering a ruling in the application for amendments of bail conditions on Monday, Magistrate Basimane Molwana granted Kevin Tsao the right to fulfil his business obligations during the week.

The magistrate also granted him permission to leave his residential complex without hindrance save for signing at a police station three times a week.

However, the other accused Dai Junying was denied amendments to her bail conditions because she failed to submit corroborative evidence.

Tsao and Junying were part of a septet of Chinese nationals arrested on 12 November 2019 for alleged human trafficking and violation of South Africa’s labour laws.

The other accused are Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, and Zhang Zhilian.

The four males and three females were arrested in a joint operation by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng together with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit.

The seven accused first filed for bail in November last year following their arrest. The bail was initially was denied on 20 March 2020.

The defence then decided to lodge a second bail attempt on new facts, and on 25 May 2020, the Magistrate ruled that there were grounds for the defence to apply for second bail.

The prosecution had earlier dismissed the submission by defence of a second bail attempt as the “reshuffling of old arguments as new facts”.

On 24 June 2020, the court granted bail with strict endorsements to the seven in the long-drawn bail hearing.

Tsao, a naturalised South African was on Monday granted R70 000 bail with conditions to leave his place of resident only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Hui, who is the second accused and has a previous conviction was granted R55 000 bail, while the rest of the accused were granted R30 000 bail each with strict conditions attached to their movements.

Accused two to seven are expected to stay at the place of resident of Tsao and they are not allowed any movement beyond their complex.

They are only allowed movement out of their premises only to sign at the Cleveland Police Station between 6am and 6pm, and when they attend to court proceedings.

The accused will face charges ranging from human trafficking, violation of Immigration Act, debt bondage, kidnapping and the pointing of a firearm.

“The Department of Employment and Labour has since joined in the matter to press for the prosecution of the accused for violating South Africa’s labour laws.

“Prosecutor Advocate Dube [on Monday] served the accused with an indictment. Magistrate Molwana has transferred the matter to be heard at the Johannesburg High Court,” said the Department of Employment and Labour in a statement.

The accused are expected to reappear in court on 16 October 2020

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