Dewani Publicist Max Clifford Says Murder-Hire Claim ’Ludicrous’

Max Clifford, the publicist hired by Shrien Dewani, whose wife was murdered while they were on honeymoon in South Africa from the U.K. last month, says allegations his client planned the killing are “ludicrous.”

Anni Dewani, 28, was killed on Nov. 13 after the taxi she and her husband were travelling in was carjacked in the township of Gugulethu, near Cape Town. Taxi driver Zola Tongo was hired by Shrien Dewani to arrange the murder, the Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock told the Cape High Court today, the South African Press Association reported.

“This taxi driver who has admitted he was involved in the murder is now making allegations against Shrien -- it’s just ludicrous,” Clifford said in a phone interview from London. “The allegations are totally untrue and just horrendously upsetting to him after all he’s been through.”

Tongo, who was sentenced to 18 years in jail for his role in the murder, said in a plea bargain with the state that Shrien Dewani offered him 15,000 rand ($2,178) to orchestrate a hit on his wife, according to the news agency. Tongo, 31, found two other men, who have also been arrested in connection with the murder, to carry out the killing, Sapa reported.

‘Get in Touch’

South African police as well as the nation’s prosecutors have made no attempt to contact Shrien Dewani regarding the allegations, said Clifford. Attempts by the Dewani family to contact the British High Commission in South Africa have also yielded no response, Clifford added.

“If they wanted my client to answer anything at all they only have to get in touch,” said Clifford. “There’s been no contact whatsoever.”

The South African Police Service said it will “follow all prescripts of the law with due regard to local and international protocols” during its investigations and will ensure “justice emerges triumphant,” according to an e-mailed statement. Police spokesman Vish Naidoo declined to comment on the matter when contacted on his mobile phone by Bloomberg News.

Shrien Dewani is “in the Bristol area” of the U.K. and is receiving trauma counseling, said Clifford. His father has been in contact with Vinod Hindocha, the father of Anni Dewani, during the course of the “last week,” Clifford added.

“I’d like to say thank you to the South African people for their support and thank you for the whole world for the condolence messages to our family through e-mail, through Facebook,” Hindocha was quoted as saying by Sapa today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Garth Theunissen in Johannesburg gtheunissen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gavin Serkin at gserkin@bloomberg.net

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