EXCLUSIVE: Robbery at chief prosecutor's office

2017-07-26 06:05
Security camera. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Security camera. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Johannesburg - The office of the chief public prosecutor in Pretoria was broken into on Thursday night, just two weeks after computers were stolen from the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions.

News24 has reliably learnt that chief prosecutor, advocate Matric Luphondo’s office in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court was broken into.

Insiders told News24 that the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court has state-of-the-art CCTV cameras and is considered secure.

It is not clear what cases Luphondo was working on when his office was robbed.

"This is a serious attack on the state," they said.

Investigation

NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said he could not comment until police had completed their investigation.

"The safety and security of our offices and personnel is paramount. On the basis of confidentiality we are not comfortable sharing information relating to security measures that are in place," he said.

Two weeks earlier, the offices of the National Director of Public Prosecutions, which are near the court, were broken into.

The intruders gained access to the building via a fire escape and by climbing through a window which leads to the ladies’ bathroom.

Eyewitness News reported that the prosecutors whose laptops were stolen in the robbery were handling the case in which controversial Hawks Brigadier Nyameka Xaba was a suspect in the alleged kidnapping of SARS employee Vlok Symington.

The robbery happened soon after Xaba had met the two advocates handling the Symington case.

In October 2016, members of the Hawks allegedly locked Symington into a boardroom of the SARS head office.

They were apparently trying to get him to sign an affidavit relating to the fraud investigation into then finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Robberies at state institutions

In recent months, there have been a number of robberies at state institutions.

At the beginning of July, the Hawks had a break-in at their head office, the Promat Building, in Silverton, Pretoria. Computers were stolen.

The burglars targeted the HR, finance and supply chain departments. The Hawks said there were no signs of forced entry, Eyewitness News reported.

Access cards are required to enter the area that was targeted. It is believed someone may have opened the office and may even have had a remote control for the boom at the entrance.

Gareth Newham, head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, told News24 after the Hawks burglary that the theft of computers raises suspicions that the burglary was a rogue intelligence job.

Spying on 'enemies of the state'

It highlights the existence of a "shadow state", where criminal elements in state and crime intelligence are diverting resources for their own agenda, Newham said.

"You wouldn't want to risk breaking in for old computers. This suggests that it is not about making money," Newham said.

The burglary follows a tense exchange between former Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula in April.

Ntlemeza arrived for work after he was fired. A High Court ruling found his appointment invalid and set it aside.

In March, 15 computers were stolen from the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand.

At the time, then acting national police commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane said the computers were taken from the HR department and contained sensitive information about the country's judges.

A few days later, robbers stole computers from the Helen Suzman Foundation's offices in Johannesburg.

Similar break-ins have taken place at offices in the parliamentary precinct and offices of lawyers, Newham said.

"This is clearly a trend. No one is convicted. People are arrested and eventually, it comes out that there is nothing linking them. Intelligence is not being used to fight crime, but to spy on people who are deemed 'enemies of the state': the judiciary, independent media, civil society."

Read more on:    hawks  |  crime

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