Sex, Sars and rogue spies

2014-08-10 15:00

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A spy’s bedroom confessions, a romance gone wrong and four years of SMSes have blown the lid off a rogue unit within the State Security Agency (SSA).

A City Press investigation has revealed the existence of the Special Operations Unit of the SSA, where rogue agents use state resources to conduct dirty tricks campaigns, smuggle cigarettes and disgrace top civil servants.

In the wake of the break-up between SA Revenue Service (Sars) group executive Johan van Loggenberg and Pretoria attorney Belinda Walter – who admitted to him and to his bosses that she was a spy – rogue elements within the SOU have been exposed as:

»?Allegedly employing convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti to recruit tobacco smugglers. Agliotti has been caught on two separate tape recordings boasting that he could guarantee the alleged smugglers immunity from prosecution.

» Trying to reinstate former police crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli, apparently to have a “friend” in a strategic intelligence position. To ensure Mdluli was not charged, agents began a campaign to discredit former prosecutor and now DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach.

This campaign “exposed” Breytenbach as a spy for Israeli intelligence agency Mossad – allegations that were used by her employers at the National Prosecuting Authority to discredit her.

» Running a campaign against Hawks head Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat for his role in Mdluli’s fraud and murder investigations by leaking a police dossier to the media implicating him in perlemoen smuggling and the illegal rendition of Zimbabwean criminals.

» Working to replace Sars’ top management, from acting commissioner Ivan Pillay to Van Loggenberg – because the service was investigating tobacco smugglers with close links to the unit.

City Press is in possession of hundreds of SMSes, emails and tape recordings that date from 2011 to 2014. We have heard the recordings of discussions allegedly held between Agliotti and tobacco smugglers.

The SMSes and emails were forensically extracted from cellphones and have been handed over to the office of State Security Minister David Mahlobo and to Sars’ top managers.

City Press approached Walter for comment, but she declined. After their break-up, she lodged a complaint against Van Loggenberg with Sars. In the complaint, she called her former boyfriend mentally ill, unstable, corrupt, a pathological liar and a sociopath “likened to a paedophile”.

Sars asked her for an affidavit to provide proof of her claims so it could formally charge Van Loggenberg. She did neither, but last week withdrew her complaint “without prejudice”.

Spies gone rogue

City Press has a list of about 15 persons contracted as agents for the Special Operations Unit and their “associates”. Special Operations Unit “contract agents” are paid a monthly salary and “production bonuses”, but do not appear on the personnel files of the SSA.

The unit works from a house in Pretoria’s eastern suburbs, and its members have access to the most sophisticated listening and tracking devices – including a so-called grabber, which can pinpoint the location of a cellphone.

Among their members are Walter, former full-time SSA agents, police officers, military intelligence agents and former members of the Civil Cooperation Bureau, the defence force’s death squad during apartheid.

Two of the unit’s top managers have been implicated in fraud and corruption – and the charges against one, Mandisa Mokwena, date back to her time as a group executive head at Sars.

Mokwena is standing trial in the North Gauteng High Court on 43 counts of fraud and money laundering. Some of her assets have also been seized.

In 2009, while she was still working for Sars, an independent audit report accused her of being involved in multimillion-rand tender irregularities.

She resigned before facing a disciplinary hearing, was arrested soon afterwards and was charged. She is due back in court on January 26.

Despite the charges against her, Mokwena was appointed as the head of economic intelligence: special operations of the SSA.

One of the unit’s other bosses, Thulani Dlomo, was appointed in early 2012 as the head of special operations at the SSA.

Dlomo is the former head of security in KwaZulu-Natal’s social development department. He resigned after an internal audit found he allegedly interfered with tender procedures and awarded dodgy contracts to the tune of R45?million.

The auditors recommended that he face criminal charges – which did not happen – and last year the inspector general for intelligence found there was nothing untoward in his appointment. Both Dlomo and Mokwena have top-secret security clearances.

Love gone sour

Last year, Walter befriended Van Loggenberg, who is single. She asked him out on a date and a serious relationship blossomed between them.

But the pair’s love affair took a turn for the worse when Van Loggenberg discovered she was acting as a lawyer for the very alleged tobacco smugglers he and Sars were investigating in its Project Honey Badger for tax evasion, fraud and money laundering.

Then she confessed to him that she was working as a spy. She promised to quit, but didn’t.

When they broke up in May this year, Van Loggenberg returned to hundreds of text messages he’d helped her retrieve as a favour – and started to piece together the existence of the Special Operations Unit.

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