Top cops deny fraud, theft charges

2015-07-02 21:29


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Pretoria - Two former police crime intelligence unit officials on Thursday pleaded not guilty in the Pretoria Regional Court to charges of theft, fraud, and corruption.

The unit’s former financial head Lieutenant-General Solly Lazarus and former procurement head Colonel Hein Barnard allegedly used a special account intended for undercover operations to buy vehicles for themselves, family members, and friends.

The vehicles included a Nissan Murano 4x4, a Nissan Navara, a motorcycle, two Honda quad bikes, and a Kia Picanto.

The account was allegedly created at Barnard’s insistence to fund covert operations. The transactions were concluded between 2006 and 2011.

Lazarus and Barnard allegedly transferred money flowing from vehicle sale and purchase transactions with Atlantis Motors into the special account before using it to help finance their personal car purchases.

Crime intelligence did business worth R70 million with its preferred dealer, Atlantis Motors in Centurion, through a front company called Universal Technical Enterprises (UTE).

Special account

Lazarus and Barnard admitted in their plea explanation that UTE was funded by the special account, but denied that the money came exclusively from the fiscus.

They admitted that UTE bought vehicles from Atlantis Motors, but said these purchases were for the benefit of individuals and other entities, and not for the SAPS.

“The accused have no knowledge of the creation or use of the special account,” they said.

Lazarus and Barnard, together with former crime intelligence head General Richard Mdluli, are to go on trial in the Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria in August on charges of fraud, corruption, and money laundering.

The dealer principal for Atlantis Motors, Jan Venter, testified for the state in exchange for indemnity from criminal prosecution.

He was warned he could incriminate himself on charges of theft, fraud, and corruption.

Venter said he had met Barnard in 1994, when Barnard approached him to buy cars for crime intelligence. They eventually became good friends and Barnard introduced him to Lazarus.

The cars were initially registered in Barnard’s name, but later in the name of the front company UTE.

Venter became involved in the criminal trial when investigators asked him for a statement. He said he initially made a false statement with Barnard’s help, but decided to help the investigators after consulting his lawyers.

“I was not threatened to take part in the case. I volunteered,” he said.

'R10 000 wasn’t that much'

Venter testified that Barnard approached him in about 2006 to create an account to be used for the benefit of crime intelligence.

When new vehicles were sold at a profit of more than 4%, and used ones for more than 7%, the extra profit was paid into the UTE account.

“I could not find fault with it because the original purpose was to use it for covert operations,” he said.

Venter said instructions for the use of the money came from Barnard, but no cash was ever paid out of the account and he did not benefit from it, except to pay his attorney.

Although he initially thought the account was for covert operations, in 2007 Lazarus used it to buy a scooter for his daughter.

“I knew this was now more for personal use, but it did not bother me because R10 000 wasn’t that much.

“I realised with the other transactions that it was becoming a personal cheque account for Lazarus and Barnard and that they were now going to use it.

“It was to my advantage because we did business worth R70 million… I knew if I stopped it the business would dry up... About R1.2 million was in that time paid into the… account and about R1.1 million paid out on Barnard’s instructions,” he said.

Car for his daughter

Transactions on the account included Lazarus using R55 000 to buy a Kia Picanto for his daughter, and then about R40 000 to repair the car after an accident.

Venter said Lazarus later asked him to make a false statement about this and other transactions.

He said the account was used for a R60 000 deposit for Barnard’s Nissan Navara. He denied that the deposit was paid in cash, as Barnard had claimed.

He testified that the account was further used to help Lazarus buy a new Nissan Murano 4x4. The retail price was R488 000, but Lazarus only got a loan for R350 000. The rest of the purchase price, including extras such as carpets and a DVD player, came from the secret account.

He later re-sold the car for R420 000 and paid the profit, after settling the outstanding amount, to Lazarus.

Venter said money was transferred from the account to buy a quad bike and motorcycle for Lazarus’ children.

After the case came to light, Lazarus gave him a cheque for R10 000, but on legal advice he never cashed it.

The trial continues on Friday.

Read more on:    pretoria  |  crime  |  police

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