Why charges were dropped

2015-01-10 00:00

A CONFIDENTIAL internal memorandum between two senior State advocates reveals how KwaZulu-Natal top cop Mmamonnye Ngobeni was let off the hook on corruption charges dating back to 2011.

Ngobeni, who has been reaffirmed as provincial commissioner with a new five-year contract, was charged alongside Umhlanga businessperson and once fraud accused Thoshan Panday, after the latter settled the tab for a lavish birthday party for Brigadier Lucas Ngobeni, her husband.

The National Prosecuting Authority had declined to prosecute Ngobeni, citing a lack of evidence to secure a successful conviction, allowing her to continue with her controversial tenure.

The detailed missive between NPA senior state advocate Tumetsi Abram Letsholo and his superior Bulelwa Vimbani provides a detailed insight into reasons why Ngobeni, and her co-accused Panday, evaded prosecution.

In the letter, a copy of which was leaked to Weekend Witness, Letsholo discusses the merits of corruption charges against Panday, who was at the time charged in connection with a R60 million police accommodation tender scam.

The protracted police investigation revealed Ngobeni had close ties with Panday and that she had allowed him to pay for the birthday party while knowing he was under investigation for corruption.

Panday and Ngobeni have since been cleared of all charges.

“The lead investigator in the case inquired how strong the case was against the provincial commissioner in respect of the allegations that one of the suspects in this matter, namely Thoshan Panday, allegedly paid for her husband’s birthday party.

“I informed him that based on the evidence in the docket which was given to me, there was no evidence against the provincial commissioner,” he wrote.

Last year, Weekend Witness published a complete dossier of evidence that had been gathered in the case against Ngobeni, including detailed affidavits from restaurant staff and invoices, which link Ngobeni to Panday.

Ngobeni had steadfastly denied that Panday had paid for the bash, but the denials were sunk last year when Panday boasted about it in a newspaper interview.

Letsholo also confirms the existence of a secret forensic audit into the accommodation tender scam that, at a cost of R1,93 million, was funded by the taxpayer.

Investigators are understood to have commissioned Price Waterhouse Coopers to probe the manner in which contracts for police accommodation were awarded, amid allegations that Panday had colluded with senior supply chain management staff.

While police sources close to the investigation confirmed the existence of the audit report, which had been completed last year, police top brass refuse to make its findings public.

It, along with other evidence gathered in the investigation into Panday, was scuppered by what Letsholo describes as the “illegal” interception of the businessperson’s telephone calls by the Crime Intelligence Unit.

Letsholo claims he was handed representations made on behalf of Panday, an affidavit claiming that his calls were intercepted.

“It is important to note that at no stage whatsoever was I informed by the investigating officers in this case that there are tape recordings available in this matter,” Letsholo says in his statement.

“Furthermore, there is nothing in the docket to suggest or indicate that there was an application made for the authority to permit the police to monitor certain telephone conversations.”

Letsholo goes on to allege that one of the investigating officers, Colonel S.Y. Govender, said that the police had made a decision to remove everything related to the taped conversations as they were informed by the Crime Intelligence Unit that there were threats to their lives as the investigating officers on this case.

According to Letsholo, Govender added that the Crime Intelligence Unit had made a legal application to be granted authority for the tapping of the phones “only for the purposes of verifying the allegations of the threats against the investigating officers”.

“There was no need whatsoever for such applications to be made,” Letsholo said.

After Govender was told that all the evidence from the recordings would have to be included in the case docket available to the prosecution team, Letsholo alleges that Govender made it clear that the Crime Intelligence Unit would not release the recordings, but would, however, hand over an edited copy.

“Clearly, this tapping of phones was a blatant abuse of power and resources, with far-reaching consequences,” Letsholo said. “The evidence as it stands at this point is irredeemably stained.”

Letsholo said that taking such “stained” evidence to court would mean that he would have to turn a blind eye to the manner in which it was obtained, “something [he is] not prepared to do”.

Letsholo concludes by offering the “improper investigation techniques by the police” as the reason he declined to prosecute.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za, jeff.wicks@witness.co.za


THE controversial telephone recordings of Thoshan Panday have been the subject of much contention.

In this case, the prosecution deemed them to have soured all other evidence amid allegations that they were obtained illegally.

Panday also alleges, in his affidavit, that KZN CIU head Deena Moodley and three senior officers had summoned him to a meeting at their offices. At this meeting, Panday claims, he was played recordings of his conversations with the provincial commissioner, prominent politicians, “female acquaintances” and his attorney. He alleges that Moodley had tried to get him to turn on Mmamonnye Ngobeni and offered him immunity from prosecution.

His claims have resulted in the suspension of the CIU operatives on the strength of his affidavit alone. This despite their vehement denials in four affidavits submitted by their legal representatives.

Last year, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega ordered that the tapes be taken to Pretoria, essentially breaking the chain of evidence by removing them from the authorised custodian.


DA shadow police minister Dianne Kohler-Barnard said that Thoshan Panday’s word should not have been taken as gospel as Tumetsi Letsholo’s letter was based on an affidavit he had submitted.

“What we’re seeing here is a bizarre statement given by a man, Thoshan Panday, who was facing a long jail term, making extraordinary claims which contradicted the claims made by every other person in the room. Yet the word of Panday, business partner to Jacob Zuma’s son, Edward, is taken as gospel.

“To my eye, there is a clear move to firstly protect the provincial commissioner, who had absolutely no right to instruct the Hawks to stop investigating Panday, but did it anyway. Her instruction came after he had paid for her husband’s birthday party. The signed receipts were published by the Weekend Witness, signed by Thoshan Panday, who had also bragged about having paid the bill. Despite this and her many, many other failings … the national police commissioner went ahead and gave her another five-year contract,” she said.

“We need to see the PWC report — but as the SAPS has done before today with such reports, which usually cost the taxpayer in the region of R2 million, they hide the documents away and continue investigating, and reinvestigating until they achieve the outcome they want,” Kohler-Barnard said.

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