Alleged hitman Mkhuthazi Excellent Gxaleka was found guilty by the East London Regional Court yesterday of extortion and attempted extortion.
Regional Court magistrate Nomthandazo Vabaza said the state had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Gxaleka, 49, was guilty of two counts of extortion and another of attempted extortion.
He allegedly called and sent text messages to Eastern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo and to Ngcobo-based medical doctor Litha Mboyana claiming he had been hired to kill them and that they should pay him to stop the hits.
While Mboyana allegedly paid Gxaleka R115000, Kupelo reported the matter to the police.
Senior state prosecuting advocate Nceba Ntelwa charged Gxaleka with six counts of extortion, attempted extortion and intimidation.
Vabaza defined extortion yesterday as obtaining something by force, threats, or intimidation and said that the crime was not completed until that something was handed over.
“Regarding count one, the accused is alleged to have targeted Dr Mboyana and informed him that his gang had been contracted to assassinate him,” Vabaza said in her judgment.
“The threat of assassination caused Dr Mboyana to fear for his safety and his livelihood. It therefore amounted to intimidation. It is this same act of intimidation on the basis of which it is alleged that the accused committed extortion referred to in count two.
“In count two the accused acquired the benefit in cash of R100000 by applying pressure on Dr Mboyana with the threats of assassination. There was therefore a causal link between the pressure and acquisition of the benefit of R100000.
“The conduct of the accused was both unlawful and intentional,” Vabaza said.
“In count three the accused acquired the benefit of R15000, by applying pressure on Dr Mboyana by saying he had killed one of the robbers who had robbed his surgery on a previous occasion and demanded payment. There was a causal link between the pressure and acquisition of the benefit.
“In count four the accused attempted to obtain advantage from Dr Mboyana by asking him to purchase a Golf vehicle valued at R120000 from Auto Styling in East London and subsequently threatening him if he failed to deliver the motor vehicle.
“Regarding counts five and six in respect of Mr Kupelo, the calls were made to Mr Kupelo, which from the conversations were indeed intimidating. However, the identity of the caller was not known.
“The state in its attempt to connect the calls made to Mr Kupelo relied solely on circumstantial evidence of cellphone billing information without leading evidence of experts in the field who had supplied the information to the state.
“A conviction on both count one and two would be prejudicial to the accused as the two offences overlap.
“Regarding counts two, three and four the state has proved the guilt of the accused person beyond reasonable doubt. Regarding counts one, five and six the accused is found not guilty.”
The case was postponed to October 23 for sentencing arguments. — firstname.lastname@example.org