Nine of the 10 people arrested for allegedly working at a brothel in Table View, Cape Town, and extorting almost R3m from a man desperate to keep his sex life a secret appeared in the Western Cape High Court on Friday.
The tenth, Juan Francois Warren, was not in court for the pre-trial conference because he is serving a two-year sentence at Pollsmoor prison for advertising for rent the already rented Erica Road house they allegedly used as a brothel, and then pocketing the deposits.
Two prospective tenants deposited R25 000 each while a third deposited R24 000 into an associate's account before discovering that they had been fleeced.
A Russian national who had been duped got his money back, but two other victims were not so lucky.
Warren, Shantelle Reyneke-Bridger, Camilla Amelia de Waal Roussouw, Fareez Allie, Achmat Toffa, Shantelle's son Robin Reyneke, Babalwa Nozigqwaba, Norman Edwin Bridger, Michael D'Oliveira and Natasha Chang were arrested in a series of raids in Parklands, Table View and Milnerton early in 2017.
Reyneke-Bridger, Roussouw, Allie, Toffa and Bridger have been kept in custody, Judge Napa Delamo was told.
Reyneke, Nozigqwaba, D'Oliveira and Chang are on bail.
Because Warren was in prison and could not be present for Friday's case, a request was put to Delamo, and it was ordered, that a warrant for Warren's arrest be issued to secure his presence from prison for the next appearance.
Poverty-stricken girls targeted
Prosecutor Helene Booysen intends making the accused face their charges in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
They are alleged to have been part of an "enterprise" which allegedly kidnapped two South African girls under the age of 18 from their mothers and trafficked them, and a woman, for sexual purposes.
The girls, who come from a background of extreme poverty, are understood to be in a safe house now.
They were apparently ostracised for things such as not having proper school uniform and eventually dropped out of school, turning to street sex work to raise money.
Some members of the "enterprise" are understood to have spotted them and recruited them, giving them makeovers, and making them work for them.
They were advertised online under "Sex Traders" and "Glamour Girls", according to a summary of the charges, and two of the accused allegedly made or confirmed their bookings with clients.
The cash-only enterprise gave the girls and the woman only a small amount of the money they had earned, and allegedly gave them drugs.
If a client complained about one of the girls or the woman, money was withheld or deducted from their earnings.
If they were arrested by the police, the girls and the woman then owed the enterprise the money paid to lawyers to get them out of jail.
The girls and the woman found themselves in "debt bondage" because of all the money being deducted from their earnings and the money they owed.
The alleged victims, in this case, are South African, but for foreign nationals involved in similar set ups, "debt bondage" includes handing over a passport until the travel costs of getting them to South Africa are covered.
In this case, if the alleged victims tried to run away, they were found and disciplined through alleged assault.
Four of the accused also allegedly extorted R2.8m from a client over four years, getting him to pay the money into various of the accused's bank accounts to keep his sex secrets safe.
This money was allegedly laundered into other accounts.
News24 has reported previously that Toffa and Allie were charged alongside Willem Frederick John Coetzer and two others for the murder of gay nightclub owner Bruno Bronn, who was strangled in his Sea Point home in February 2012.
In 2014, the Western Cape High Court sentenced Coetzer to life imprisonment for the murder. Toffa and Allie were acquitted on murder and robbery charges.
During Friday's pre-trial appearance, prosecutor Helene Booysen noticed that one of the accused had moved out of Table View without informing the prosecution. This was after her lawyer pointed out that she had had to fly to Cape Town for the appearance.
This was during a complex exchange between seven lawyers and the prosecution who were trying to settle on a postponement date that suited everybody.
The case was postponed to June 15 to allow for consultations with the Western Cape director of public prosecutions Rodney De Kock, the Crime Intelligence officer in the case, and the lawyer of some of the accused in the hopes of reaching a plea and sentencing settlement for some of the accused.
Those on bail were released again, those in custody went back to jail and the case stood down for a while to successfully confirm the new address of the woman who had moved. The reason for her moving was kept private, but her address was confirmed to the satisfaction of the court, and she was allowed to fly out of the province again.