Cato Manor unit just a gang in blue – state

2012-08-25 18:58

On the surface, they were a highly efficient, highly decorated detective unit, hogging headlines in Durban newspapers with success after success against KwaZulu-Natal’s most dangerous criminals.

But according to the 88-page indictment served by prosecutor Patience Moleko in the Durban Regional Court on Friday, the 30 members of the Organised Crime Unit’s Serious and Violent Crime section were nothing more than a gang in blue.

Lawyers representing the 30 had been expecting additional murder charges to be added, but were floored when the state added racketeering charges against them.

These new charges were structured using the terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, devised to deal with Mafia-type operations.

The gist of the state’s argument is that the Serious and Violent Crime section, incorporated into the Organised Crime Unit in 2008 and into the Hawks in 2010, conducted a “pattern of racketeering activities” between May 2008 and September 2011.

They allegedly killed members of the KwaMaphumulo Taxi Association, which was in conflict with the Stanger Taxi Association, ordinary civilians, suspected armed robbers and a criminal gang suspected of ATM bombings.

The state claims the killings were motivated by the “desire to enrich themselves’’ either by receiving bonuses for their “excellent performance’’ or through “financial benefits’’ from businesses or individuals in conflict with the 28 people they are charged with murdering.

The indictment does not outline payments nor state at what stage the accused allegedly decided to act with “common purpose’’ to turn criminal.

Hawks KwaZulu-Natal head and former Organised Crime Unit provincial commander Major General Johan Booysen headed the enterprise, it is alleged in the indictment.

Colonel Willie Olivier, section commander of the Cato Manor operation, is named as the manager of the alleged gang set-up.

Other managers were allegedly Captain Neville Eva, Captain Anton Lockem and Captain Jan van Tonder, all group commanders.

The rest of the accused were participants in the enterprise based at Cato Manor and in other units, including the Port Shepstone Organised Crime Unit, it is alleged.

According to the indictment, Booysen (55) – a highly decorated 34-year police veteran – and his commanders either knew of the alleged unlawful killings or should have known.

Outlining the total of 116 charges, the indictment claims the accused killed 28 people and committed other crimes in the process, “which constitutes a pattern of racketeering activities”.

The indictment describes an almost standardised approach in each of the 28 killings.

Unit members would force their way into victims’ homes, shoot them dead, assault family members, destroy their property, steal what they wanted and then plant weapons to justify the killing, it is alleged.

Senior members would assist with the cover-up and ensure that investigations went nowhere, the state said in its indictment.

The racketeering charges are an unusual step and are seen to be aimed at linking Booysen to the killings as, by the state’s own admission, he was not on the scene when any of the victims were killed.

Booysen has been driving the corruption prosecution of politically connected Durban tycoon Thoshan Panday and unsuccessfully probed KwaZulu-Natal SAPS commissioner Mmamunye Ngobeni over her husband’s relationship with Panday.

Booysen told City Press on Friday he believed the act was being “abused’’ to “get” him.

“It is my opinion that the act is being abused. These guys are decorated policemen who have been giving their all to police work for years. I am proud to have led them. This case will not hold any water.’’

The accused are set to appear in the Durban High Court on October 29.

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