No high for dagga shop owner

Russell de Beer (48) in the Brits Magistrates’ Court last week.

The owner of a dagga shop in Brits, who was arrested on 9 November for dealing in dagga and contravening the Medicine and Related Substances Act, was denied bail in the Brits Magistrates’ Court on Friday, 29 November.

Russell de Beer (48), the owner of Canapax in Van Velden Street in Brits was arrested by the Hawks in his shop and 500 kg of dagga, as well as equipment for processing dagga were seized.

During his bail application, the court heard that De Beer, who claimed to be operating under the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, intends to plead not guilty and that he denies dealing in dagga. In his statement, read by his legal representative, he said he could pay R5 000 bail.

His bail hearing was postponed the previous week as a result of queries around the residential address he supplied to the Hawks during his arrest.

The Hawks opposed the bail application and Captain Tumi Sothoane, the investigating officer testified that De Beer gave them the business address, saying that he also resided there.

“However, when I went to the shop to try and verify that he does in fact live there, I only found a single bed without any bedding and no personal belongings. One would expect items like a toothbrush or something but there was indication that someone lives there,” he told the court.

He also testified that he questioned a gardener on the property during his visit and was told that De Beer comes to the shop in the morning and leaves again at the end of the business day.

Sothoane told the court that the Hawks started investigating De Beer in March 2019 after they received complaints about Canapax shops all over the country. “This led us to the shop in Brits where the head office was situated. During the investigation it was established that the accused, the owner of the franchise, was offering franchises to other people to sell dagga and dagga products.”

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In June the Hawks applied and was granted permission for entrapment. “We visited the shop and bought dagga for R300. On 9 November we executed a search warrant and confiscated dagga with a street value of R3 million, and dagga products to the value of R200 000 at the Canapax shop in Brits.”

Sothoane testified that the Hawks have in the meantime also established that Canapax was not registered as a legitimate business in South Africa and that De Beer was also not a member of the Traditional Healers Association. The Hawks are also waiting for feedback from SARS.

“The Hawks have a problem with De Beer being granted bail as a residential address has not been confirmed. If he evades trial, it will be difficult to find him.”

The court heard that there were also questions around De Beer’s passport and “presumptions can be made that he might have exited and entered the country illegally in the past.”

Magistrate Regan Rosenberg said that the court is not convinced that De Beer is not a flight risk and denied bail . The case was postponed to 24 February 2020 for investigation.

Sothoane said that the Hawks are currently “running all over the country to close Canapax shops”. De Beer allegedly sold about 70 franchises at R25 000 each all over the country.