Pubdate: Tue, 21 Sep 2004
Source: Daily News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily News.
Author: Tania Broughton
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


In a stern message to drug dealers in the city, former nightclub owner 
Michael John Otto, 29, received a 14-year prison sentence yesterday for 
dealing in Ecstasy, possession of cocaine and selling ephedrine.

Otto's jaw dropped in disbelief when Durban regional court Magistrate F 
Mohamed pronounced the sentence. He was granted leave to appeal and was 
given bail of R10 000 pending this.

Otto, who has been involved in running various clubs, including Electric 
Avenue, Harley's, Crowded House, Chaos and Lyme Ricky's, was found guilty 
of the drug-dealing and possession charges last month.

The charges date back to 1998, when he owned Electric Avenue. He was 
convicted of selling seven Ecstasy tablets and 60 ephedrine capsules to a 
police trap. When police raided his office at the club, they discovered 13g 
of cocaine and 172 ephedrine capsules.

Evidence before the court was that Otto recently served a year in prison in 
Ireland for dealing in dagga.

His advocate, Fanie Slabbert, said Otto had learned his lesson then and was 
now out of the club scene, involved in running the fleamarket at The 
Workshop and operating his own restaurant supply business.

But the magistrate said the far-reaching consequences of drug-dealing and 
the interests of society far outweighed Otto's personal circumstances.

"Drugs have become a scourge . . . they affect school kids and adults, and 
society views people who deal in hard drugs such as cocaine and Ecstasy 
with abhorrence."

She sentenced him to different prison sentences on each of the four counts, 
with the cumulative effect of 14 years.

Arguing for leave to appeal against the conviction and sentence, Advocate 
Slabbert said the drugs found in his office could have belonged to another 

Regarding the other counts, the magistrate had relied on the evidence of a 
single witness, the police trap, who had been paid by the police and was 
not independent. The advocate described the sentence as "shocking and 

In terms of his bail conditions pending appeal, Otto has to report twice 
weekly to the police and surrender his passport.
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