Convict smuggle sergeant - State

Cape Town - The State called on Thursday for the conviction of a former police sergeant accused of receiving a bribe to take a food parcel with dagga hidden in it to a prisoner at a Cape Town police station.

Former Sergeant Cornelius Wessels has pleaded not guilty before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, to charges of corruption and dealing in or possession of dagga.

The prisoner was in fact part of a undercover police operation aimed at trapping the sergeant, who was suspected of smuggling dagga and other substances to prisoners in the cells.

Standing orders at the police station forbid police officials from taking food parcels to prisoners in the cells.

Although aware of the prohibition, Wessels told the court that he felt pity for the man in the cell, and he took the parcel to him without even checking the contents.

He was not aware that the parcel had dagga hidden inside, he told the court.

Legal Aid defence lawyer Hayley Lawrence challenged the validity of the undercover operation, alleging that it went beyond the purpose of merely creating an opportunity for the target to commit an offence.

At Thursday's proceedings, at her request, the court viewed closed circuit video footage of the cells during the operation.

Prosecutor Ezmeralda Johnson said the operation was set up after Wessels had been pointed out as one of the culprits smuggling drugs to the prisoners.

She added: "The whole purpose of the operation was to uncover the corrupt official doing the smuggling."

Two agents were used in the operation, one to pose as a prisoner locked in a cell, the other to hand the forbidden food parcel to Wessels, together with a R100 bribe.

Opportunity to offend

The prosecutor said an honest police official would have refused outright to even accept the food parcel, in accordance with standing orders.

"The only reason why the accused did not refuse the parcel, was because he was engaged in illegal activities.

"At no time did he refuse the parcel, or tell the agent to go away," she said.

She said the trap did not go beyond merely giving the accused an opportunity to commit an offence and, even if it did, it did not render the trial unfair, as contended by the defence.

She said the operation was approved by the Western Cape Directorate for Public Prosecutions, with guidelines that were substantially complied with by those involved.

The DPP approval was based on suspicions that corrupt police officials were smuggling illegal substances to prisoners in the cells, she said.

The defence will present its closing argument on Friday.