KILLED: German supercar mogul Uwe GemballaIt does seem that the police have struck some kind of deal to perhaps take statements and use it later to get to the big fish Jacob Zuma
The Sunday Times can today reveal exclusively that 28-year-old Thabiso Mpshe of Pretoria was arrested quietly on Friday and appeared in the high court in Johannesburg that afternoon.
As revealed previously in the Sunday Times, the businessman's body was found buried in Atteridgeville just over a month ago, on September 28.
He vanished a day after arriving in South Africa for a business deal in February - and shortly afterwards he had called his wife, Christiane, to tell her he had been involved in accident and needed her to transfer à1-million to a bank account.
Police spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said yesterday: "It is still unclear how Gemballa was murdered, but indications are that he was suffocated. He had no visible injuries."
Naidoo said he was "not at liberty to say" if Mpshe pleaded guilty or whether the prosecution struck a deal with him.
When asked why the arrest in such a high-profile murder case was kept so low key, Naidoo said: "We need to protect any investigation, and it would not be to our benefit to talk about some successes for fear of jeopardising investigations.
"We are happy and satisfied that an arrest was made."
Top criminal attorney William Booth said the hastiness of the conviction and sentence sounded most "unusual".
Booth, chairman of the Criminal Law Committees of the Cape Law Society and the Law Society of South Africa, while not able to comment on this case, said: "It does seem that the police have struck some kind of deal to perhaps take statements and use it later to get to the big fish."
Gemballa, who was in serious financial trouble with the German authorities, evidently came to South Africa on a business trip to set up a local franchise of his company, Gemballa Automobiletechni, which specialises in tuning Porsches and Ferraris for the rich and famous.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said it was not unusual for a criminal case to be disposed of within a day.
"If the person has an attorney (and) witnesses, prosecutors and all the other roleplayers are available, including a judge, the matter can be dealt with within a day.
"This was demonstrated with the World Cup special courts that were set up."
Mhaga said it was commendable that cases could be dealt with so speedily. "If someone is caught red-handed for shoplifting, and if he pleads guilty, and if he has an attorney available, then the case can be finalised in an hour."
But this is also entirely dependent on whether the court roll can accommodate an additional case on the day or not.
Martin Schaefer, spokesman for the German consulate, said: "The corpse is being flown to his (Gemballa's) home. We have offered our consular services in terms of issuing official documents for customs and the like."
What reason was given for the murder?
Why such a high profile victim?
What happened to the proceeds from the murder (i.e. that R1million)? There is is a distinct smell attached to this story.