Hawks boss or crime lord

2012-08-23 00:00

KZN Hawks boss Major General Johan Booysen spent the night behind bars after his sensational arrest yesterday — and was then accused of masterminding a criminal organisation using police members.

Booysen, one of the province’s most prominent policemen, was held overnight in the Durban North police cells.

He and 11 others also arrested yesterday will apply for bail this morning.

It brings to 30 the number of former members of the fallen Durban Organised Crime unit arrested in connection with nearly two dozen cases in which suspects were allegedly killed without justification.

In total they face more than 120 charges, among them murder, theft, defeating the ends of justice and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Following days of speculation, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) finally wrapped up months of investigations by taking Booysen into custody at his city offices.

He was then whisked to his Amanzimtoti home, which was searched. Investigators seized some items.

Shortly afterwards, he was taken to the police Air Wing near the old airport for formal processing.

It was soon after his arrival that officials dropped a bombshell and announced they would be prosecuting Booysen for alleged racketeering.

Explaining the racketeering charge, IPID spokesperson advocate Moses Dlamini said: “They allegedly acted together like a criminal enterprise, or a criminal gang, with common purpose.

“Four or five of them were leaders of the enterprise; those are the commanders, and they should have known members below them were killing people, planting firearms and stealing from people.”

More information about the case being built by the police watchdog emerged yesterday, with one investigator saying they had focused on about 23 dockets with strong evidence that offered them the best chance of achieving a successful prosecution.

Among those cases are old files that were dusted off and included in the indictment, after they were initially rejected at the time of the incidents by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The same investigator said a similar number of dockets with less prospect of success were discarded.

The Witness has established that the IPID probe, assisted by the Hawks, was whittled down from 51 cases in which suspects were killed by the unit in suspicious circumstances.

Another insider said “at least” 30 killings — and more than likely more — were linked to the dockets under investigation.

Developments began on Tuesday night when members of the unit gathered at their Victoria Embankment offices in anticipation of their arrests.

Early yesterday morning, news of those who were going to be arrested spread, and the officers again gathered at their headquarters, with Booysen.

Booysen’s arrest took place at the offices and he was whisked away via the police parking lot.

At his home, Booysen co-operated with police and even berated the arresting officers for not searching him to establish if he had been armed. A source who was present during the search at Booysen’s home said it had only dawned upon the investigating officer to ascertain if Booysen was armed while they were searching his bedroom.

“An amused Booysen chastised the officer for failing to do his duty properly.

He said they had travelled for almost 30 kilometres without any handcuffs on him, and had it been anyone else, it would could have been disastrous.

Booysen then called a photographer and a cameraman to record that he was in fact armed and was handing his firearm over to the arresting officer,” said the source.

Some DVDs and a few other documents were seized at Booysen’s house before he was brought to the Air Wing base, where again, he was afforded privacy and whisked away from the media.

By about 6 pm Booysen, who had been fingerprinted and processed into the criminal record system, was led out of the base.

A move to bring an urgent high court application to hear a bail application after hours was halted when investigators agreed that the suspects would be taken to court early today and that bail would not be opposed.

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