Man accused of wife's murder on honeymoon
Published 08/12/2010 | 05:00
A wealthy British businessman is facing the threat of extradition to South Africa after being accused in court yesterday of plotting his wife's murder while they were in Cape Town on honeymoon.
Shrien Dewani (30) allegedly offered a taxi driver €1,650 to arrange for his new wife Anni (28) to be shot dead in a staged carjacking in a township, according to claims outlined by a prosecutor.
Mr Dewani, who owns a chain of care homes, dismissed the accusations yesterday as "ludicrous" and said he had no plans to return to the country.
South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority confirmed that extradition was "likely to be considered" as investigations around the businessman's alleged role intensified.
Mr Dewani, from Bristol, and his Swedish-born bride were honeymooning in South Africa, following a "fairytale" wedding in India, when the attack happened on November 13.
They were travelling through Gugulethu, a township, when they were ambushed by two men who appeared to threaten their driver, Zola Tongo, and order him out of the car before also ejecting Mr Dewani.
Mrs Dewani was found shot dead in the back of the car several hours later.
Yesterday, in a dramatic twist in the case, prosecutors publicly accepted a signed confession from Tongo that was agreed as part of a plea bargain deal in which he admitted murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.
With Mrs Dewani's father, Vinod Hindocha, and other relatives who had flown in from Sweden, looking on, Rodney de Kock, the Western Cape director of public prosecutions, said Mr Dewani had orchestrated the murder.
He told Judge President John Hlophe: "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."
Reading a lengthy confession signed by Tongo, who sat in the dock with his head buried in his hands throughout, he outlined how Mr Dewani allegedly offered the driver 15,000 rand (€1,626) to plan and carry out the "hit".
"The hijacking would be simulated," the confession claims. "The agreement was that after the 'hijacking' of the vehicle, both Shrien Dewani and I would be ejected from the vehicle unharmed, after which the deceased would be murdered.
"The kidnapping and robbery were part of the plan to make it appear that this was a random criminal act, unconnected to Shrien Dewani."
Tongo claimed Mr Dewani sent him a text message while he was driving saying that the fee was hidden behind a seat.
But Mr de Kock offered no evidence for the allegations other than the signed confession and no suggestion of a possible motive.
Tongo was jailed for 18 years for his role in the killing as part of the deal, avoiding a likely life sentence with little chance of parole for at least 25 years. He will give evidence at the trials of Xolile Mngeni (23) and Mzwamadoda Qwabe (25). Tongo alleges he helped recruit them to carry out the carjacking. They are accused of murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery.
Mr Dewani's spokesman, Max Clifford, described the allegations as "ludicrous and outrageous".
He added that South African police had ignored Mr Dewani's requests for information about the claims against him, including through the British High Commission.
"At the moment there is no reason for him to go there. He can't even contact the South African police," he said. "Let the South African police contact him to explain and also reveal what evidence there is to substantiate these accusations."
Friends of Mr Dewani said he was being "stitched up" as a suspect. They claim the South African authorities are trying to "muddy the water" by making the incident appear as more complex than a tourist hijacking. (© Daily Telegraph, London)