Putting paid to any notion that the police are soft on crime, on Tuesday, the Hawks’ Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) ran through 45 high-profile cases under investigation or prosecution.
No fewer than 22 477 cases with a value of R1.5 trillion are under investigation, and a total of 4 447 convictions have been obtained in the last four years, said Advocate Godfrey Lebeya, DPCI’s lieutenant general.
Hawks mum on Phala Phala
Noticeably absent from the presentation was any mention of the theft of a claimed $4 million (close to R68 million) – or as little as $600 000 (just over R10 million) according to News24 – from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s game farm Phala Phala, and the apparently irregular means used to track the alleged thieves and the money.
There was also no mention of what progress has been made in clamping down on illegal mining activity.
Lebeya explained these lacunae as a casualty of brevity, and that these cases are indeed under investigation.
“We have more than 22 000 cases, so I haven’t mentioned all of them,” he said.
“The complainant [in the Phala Phala case] made a statement, and we have filed 41 statements in the docket. I won’t deal with the nitty-gritty of the dockets.”
In answer to a question as to why no high-profile individuals have been arrested in connection with the July 2021 riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, Lebeya said 43 arrests had been made, some as recently as this week, and many more are expected.
Some of the high-profile successes notched up by the DPCI include:
- The interception of 706 cocaine bricks worth R706 million in the Eastern Cape. In another case, a boat being towed on the N1 in Gauteng was found to contain 805kg of cocaine to the value of R400 million.
- 27 arrests in connection with 188 charges related to VBS Bank, the failed bank that lost an estimated R1.6 billion belonging to about 20 municipalities. More than 2 391 statements have been gathered by the investigators, says the DPCI. The case goes to trial later this year.
- 12 suspects, including former member of parliament Advocate Bongani Bongo, were arrested in October 2020 on charges of fraud and corruption in connection with dodgy land deals amounting to almost R124 million. Farms were allegedly bought and on-sold for massive profits in Mpumalanga. This case will go to pre-trial conference later this year.
- The arrest of former JB Marks executive mayor Kgotso Moses Khumalo and director Cyril Hendry in 2020 over alleged fraud of R5 million that was intended for the municipality but ended up in private pockets.
- 22 suspects have been charged with fraud, corruption and racketeering in relation to the eThekwini (Durban) solid waste scandal, valued at R208 million. Among those charged are former mayor Zandile Gumede.
- 373 suspects have been arrested since 2018 for crimes relating to endangered species, including abalone, rhino horn, elephant tusks, lion bones, and pangolin.
- 26 arrests have been made in connection with the July 2021 riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which caused billions of rands worth of damage to infrastructure and businesses. The case comes before the Durban Magistrates Court later this week.
- France Hlakudi, Abram Masango, Hudson Kgomoeswana and seven others were arrested in 2019 on allegations of fraud and corruption at Eskom’s Kusile Power Station project. It is alleged that a tender was fraudulently awarded to Tubular Construction for services that were initially awarded to Alstom S&E Africa.
- The extradition from the UK of former Group Five CEO Mike Lomas is pending in relation to the above case, which returns to court on 4 November.
- Seven suspects, including Angelo Agrizzi and the former commissioner of Correctional Services, were arrested in 2019 on allegations of corruption, money laundering and fraud, in relation to four tenders that are claimed to have been irregularly awarded to facilities management company Bosasa.
The DPCI’s personnel head count is 23 672 and it is currently advertising for 200 more positions.
Since 2018, the unit has arrested 12 157 suspects and secured 4 447 convictions, though the number of charges investigated was considerably higher.
In just one case, two people were convicted on 487 cases of Vat fraud of R110 million, and potentially as high as R440 million.
They were found guilty and sentenced to 17 and 16 years’ imprisonment respectively
“The DPCI has noted that corruption is one of the biggest threats in South Africa,” said Lebeya.
“It also allows the flow of illegal funds which is the reason that informs the Directorate to monitor performance on money laundering charges initiated through criminal investigations.
In strengthening the fight against corruption, the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) and Operational Committee have been revitalised in order to fast track criminal investigation, prosecution and asset recovery.”
The task team has set up a system to prioritise crimes under the categories Top 100, Top 33 and Top 10.
It has the power to seize and recover assets of illicit activities. The results of this new system have been “overwhelming”, said Lebeya, with 554 arrests and 142 convictions.
One of these is the arms deal case, which will be heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in October.
Several of the cases covered by Lebeya involved PPE (personal protective equipment) tender fraud, mismanagement of funds and fraud at municipalities, and the murder of several police officers.