Shrien Dewani, 30, whom South African authorities accuse of paying to have his bride Anni killed during their honeymoon in Cape Town, appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London on an extradition warrant.
Dewani had handed himself in to a police station in Bristol, southwest England, on Tuesday. He appeared in court with heavy stubble and wearing jogging clothes.
Defence lawyer Clare Montgomery argued that Dewani was a man of “exemplary character.” His 28-year-old wife was killed on November 13 after the couple’s taxi was reportedly hijacked outside Cape Town.
The judge in London first granted bail to Dewani, but in a dramatic twist, he was told that for procedural reasons he must now remain in custody pending a High Court hearing.
District Judge Howard Riddle said initially he had agreed to grant bail to Dewani because he had cooperated with the South African police investigation.
“He was cooperative with the South African police, he left [South Africa] with the consent of the South African police,” the judge said.
The murder took place after the couple married in a lavish ceremony in the Indian city of Mumbai, which reports in Britain said cost 200,000 pounds ($315,000).
Dewani was released unharmed from the taxi, but his wife’s bullet-riddled body, robbed of her Armani watch, white gold and diamond bracelet, handbag and phone, was later found in an impoverished township neighbourhood.
He strongly denies any involvement in the murder and told the court in London he did not agree to the extradition.
In a South African court on Tuesday, taxi driver Zola Tongo said he was offered 15,000 rand ($2,175) by Dewani to kill his wife.
Tongo was sentenced to 18 years in jail by Western Cape High Court after pleading guilty to murder and aggravated robbery, but the sentence would have been longer had he not agreed to a plea bargain which involved his accusation that Dewani had paid him to kill his wife.
Dewani’s family, who have hired British public relations guru Max Clifford, rejected the accusations as “ludicrous.”
“Shrien is totally innocent of any involvement in this heinous crime. These allegations are totally ludicrous and very hurtful to a young man who is grieving the loss of the woman he loved, his chosen life partner,” they said in a statement.
South African National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Eric Ntabazalila told AFP that Tongo had given evidence that he was approached by the Briton and promised the payment “to remove someone off the scene.”
“After some discussion with him I understood that he wanted someone, a woman, killed,” said Tongo in a sworn statement.
He enlisted two accomplices to conduct the murder, according to Ntabazalila. Tongo’s plea bargain documents reveal that the hijacking was part of a plan devised with Dewani to conceal the murder.
“Threatening me and Shrien Dewani with a firearm was a mere pretence of force,” he said.
The two other men accused of Dewani’s killing are due to face trial on February 25th, 2011.
Prior to the killing, the honeymooners had dined in a seaside restaurant in a town outside Cape Town and were on their way back to the city when Anni Dewani asked to see township nightlife, according to reports at the time.
However, court documents released on Tuesday said this was part of a plan concocted by the victim’s husband and Tongo.
Tongo told the court he carefully went through the hijacking and murder details with Dewani, even taking him to a black market foreign exchange dealer in Cape Town to arrange payment and avoid a bank audit trail.
“The agreement was that after the hijacking of the vehicle, Shrien Dewani and I would be ejected from the vehicle unharmed…the deceased would be kidnapped and robbed, before she was murdered,” he said.