Case against 'Cato Manor death squad' takes a knock

2015-07-16 19:59
Johan Booysen

Johan Booysen

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Durban - As members of the so-called “Cato Manor death squad” challenge the racketeering charges they face in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban, the notion that they may have been part of an elaborate criminal enterprise is on shaky ground.

News24 can reveal that former police reservist Ari Danikas, touted as a lynchpin witness in the case against KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen and the squad, has been left off the witness list because of concerns that he may be lying, among other things.

The squad, members of the now disbanded Serious and Violent Crimes Unit, and Booysen were arrested and charged with racketeering, murder and other crimes in 2012.

The justification for their arrest, made by the National Prosecuting Authority's then acting head, Nomgcobo Jiba, was that under Booysen the unit had run a hit squad.

Jiba claimed her decision was based on studying evidence from Danikas and others.

An e-mail, apparently penned by lead State advocate Gladstone Maema addressed to an attorney, and seen by News24, outlines the concerns about the strength of the testimony Danikas would offer.

The e-mail is dated January 23 2015.

“The consideration to use Mr Danikas as a witness in the ensuing trial was a real one earlier in our investigation, we even drafted the MLA documents asking authorities in Greece to assist to have the documents signed in accordance with the prescripts [documents are Danikas’s statement which was used as evidence, but never signed].”

'We're not sure the witness is telling us everything'

Maema said there were a “number of challenges” surrounding Danikas returning to South Africa to testify in the squad's trial.

“The incidents that Danikas refers to in his draft statement started in 2001 to 2007, a period not covered in the indictment [which begins covering the period of 2008 onwards]. Most of those incidents are not referred to in the indictment and do not have dockets which relate to them.

“The real possibility of other offences unrelated to Cato Manor that the witness may be involved in makes it a very risky consideration to expect him to come to the RSA for the purpose of testifying,” the e-mail reads.

“Section 204 requires a witness who expects indemnity from prosecution to testify openly and answer questions frankly and honestly, even those questions that may expose him or incriminate him. We are not sure that the witness is telling us everything, the chances of surprises in court are very real,” the document reads.

“We did not include Mr Danikas in the list of witnesses until we have a signed statement from him. We have to date not been able to convince our prosecution authorities that Mr Danikas’s evidence will assist the state case in any way.”

The decision to charge the squad and Booysen with racketeering, according to Jiba in her replying affidavit to his application, was that she had considered evidence in the dockets and four statements made by three key witnesses - one of them Danikas.

Danikas is a former police reservist and friend of Booysen. He now lives in Greece.

Booysen has already had the racketeering charges against him set aside after a successful and very similar high court application.

When Judge Trevor Gorven set the charges aside, he slammed Jiba’s decision to authorise the racketeering certificate.

The controversial Jiba is now fighting wars on several fronts, facing fraud and perjury charges, as well potential disbarment.

In an affidavit she filed in the latter, she now claims to have considered “information and advice placed before me for the purposes of granting authorisations” of the racketeering certificates.

“The statement [of Danikas] did not relate to a specific incident covered in the indictment, but was intended to corroborate the evidence in the possession of the prosecution team that Booysen was involved in the various activities giving rise to the charges…” she said.

In his successful application, Booysen maintained that his name had been mentioned only four times in nearly 300 witness statements, all saying that he had been seen at two scenes long after the shootings were over. 

News24 approached the NPA for comment on the matter. They did not respond to pointed questions at the time of going to press. 

Read more on:    npa  |  hawks  |  johan booysen  |  nomgcobo jiba  |  crime

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