The 10 foreign nationals accused of trying to smokkel cocaine worth over R500 million into Cape Town will stay in the mang until the state can find translators.
The 10 men – four from Bulgaria and six from Myanmar – were busted near Saldanha Bay on Monday night in what has been hailed as the biggest drug bust in the Western Cape.
The intelligence-driven operation saw various tactical forces descending on the vessel where 973 blocks of compressed cocaine with an estimated value of R583m were found in three compartments of the vessel.
The suspects, who were charged with drug dealing, made their first appearance at the Vredenburg Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
However, National Prosecuting Authority’s Eric Ntabazalila says it was revealed that only some of the Bulgarian men understood bits of English.
“When the defence tried to consult with the Myanmar men, they were met with blank stares.
“The defence asked that the state must organise interpreters for the accused to ensure that their rights are protected.
“They requested that the accused must not be booked out or interrogated without the presence of an interpreter.
“However, the issue of not booking one of the accused who can speak English was changed after consultation between the police and the defence as further investigation needed to continue.
“The case has been postponed to 12 March 2021 for the state to secure interpreters.
“The court was informed that there is a registered Bulgarian interpreter available, but the challenge would be getting a Myanmar interpreter.”
He says more charges are likely to be added as the investigation continues.