Mdluli: Paper denies police bribes

2012-05-17 12:56

The editor of the Sunday Times has denied allegations that the newspaper’s journalists accepted money from senior crime intelligence officers to place an article meant to “cast suspicion” on senior Hawks officers involved in the investigation into Richard Mdluli.

Ray Hartley, editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times, said this allegation was “made on the flimsiest of grounds and includes no supporting evidence”.

The allegation was made in a report penned by Colonel Kobus Roelofse to the commander of the anti-corruption task team two months ago.

The report was submitted as supporting evidence in Freedom Under Law’s (FUL) court application to interdict former police intelligence boss Richard Mdluli from acting as a police officer.

In the report, Roelofse said a crime intelligence officer, who was assisting the team investigating Mdluli, was taken to Major General Solly Lazarus’s house and interrogated about what he had told the Hawks investigators regarding Mdluli and Lazarus.

Lazarus was head of finances for crime intelligence and was also allegedly in control of the police’s secret intelligence “slush fund”.

The crime intelligence officer told Roelofse that he had overheard Lazarus and other crime intelligence officers discussing “the placement of a newspaper article relating to (Hawks head) Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat and (Gauteng Hawks boss) Major General Shadrack Sibiya.

Sibiya was originally in charge of Mdluli’s investigation until an independent investigating team, which included Roelofse, was brought in from the Western Cape to investigate the matter.

Roelofse reported to Dramat after he had taken over the investigation.

This was done because the investigating team under Lazarus faced internal disciplinary charges along with Mdluli in relation to the plundering of the secret service account.

According to documents in the possession of City Press, the Hawks found that Lazarus appointed family members to crime intelligence, abused a police beach resort for private purposes and misused a crime intelligence travel agent to cover private expenses.

In his report, Roelofse said that the crime intelligence officer said Lazarus “wanted to use sources within the media (journalists paid by crime intelligence) to write a story in order to take the focus away from them.

“This, according to the member (of crime intelligence), was a strategy employed to cast suspicion on those they perceived to be a threat.”

Roelofse then goes on to say that “this newspaper article was published in the Sunday Times on 23 October 2011”.

Hartley said the allegation was “yet another attack on the integrity of our multiple award-winning investigative team, which has been responsible for a string of high-profile exposés of corruption, mismanagement and brutality within the South African Police Service.

“The article under question was not written on the prompting of a single ‘source’ in the police. It was the product of a lengthy investigation which included information supplied by several police officers, evidence of police entry ledgers, death certificates and the sworn affidavit of several witnesses,” said Hartley.

The article dealt with the illegal rendition of Zimbabweans back to that country.

The article notes that “senior officials in the Hawks and SA Police Service are conducting illegal ‘renditions’ with their Zimbabwean counterparts – by arresting “suspects” and illegally sending them across the Beit Bridge Border to be murdered”.

It notes that the Sunday Times was in possession of intelligence reports which listed at least three deaths.

The report notes that the operation was “led by officers reporting to Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Mzwandile Petros”.

The report also said that a victim of rendition had made a sworn statement identifying Sibiya and another officer as having arrested him.

Hartley said the Sunday Times remains “proud of this story which exposed that the police chain of command failed to prevent these gross human rights abuses”.

He called on the acting police commissioner, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, to furnish evidence to the newspaper that “any journalist is in the pay of the police or has, in any way, acted in breach of the press code of conduct”.

Hartley said that if this evidence was not produced, Mkhwanazi needed to withdraw the “outrageous allegation from the public domain”.

He added that the “harshest action” would be taken against any persons shown to be in the pay of the police.

Hartley said that “while the story may or may not have been used by one or other faction in the police to further their ends in the internal dirty war that is under way in the service,” the newspaper did not have control over this.

The National Press Club has meanwhile called for an “urgent investigation” into the claims made by Roelofse.

In a statement, NPC chairperson Yusuf Abramjee called on the media houses suspected of being involved to launch an investigation.

Crime Intelligence Tree

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