Top cop under fire

2011-10-01 18:36

KwaZulu-Natal police boss Mmamonnye Ngobeni allegedly personally intervened to shut down a fraud and corruption investigation into Durban businessman Thoshan Panday, who paid for her police officer husband’s lavish birthday party.

The corruption probe into Panday over police accommodation tenders worth R60 million was shelved on Ngobeni’s instruction last June, despite her not having the “mandate” to do so.

The Hawks and the office of ­police boss General Bheki Cele has now confirmed Ngobeni is ­under investigation for her role in the case.

The investigation was closed ­after she had summoned police ­investigators to her office to meet with Panday and his legal team.

But the probe was re-opened after the police officers approached Hawks boss Anwa Dramat directly to intervene.

These dramatic allegations against the province’s controversial top cop – whose appointment by Cele ahead of more qualified officers caused an uproar – were made in an explosive affidavit to the Durban Regional Court on ­Friday by Hawks investigator Colonel Phillip Herbst.

Ngobeni was interviewed on Tuesday by Hawks investigators at her office in Durban, after a new case of corruption was opened at the Durban North Police Station last Friday.

The case is understood to relate to a party for Ngobeni’s husband, Brigadier Lucas Ngobeni, held at the Dish Restaurant at the Royal Palm Hotel in May last year – shortly before the case against Panday was closed by her office.

The party, a R220-a-plate dinner with whisky, champagne and a DJ, was attended by 40 top police officials and businesspeople, and was paid for by Panday.

Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela confirmed that there was an investigation against Ngobeni, but refused to reveal any further details.

Provincial ANC leader Sizwe Mchunu said the party had already begun its own investigation into Ngobeni and her husband, and would press authorities to ensure that the official probe was not ­derailed.

Cele’s spokesperson Nkululeko Mbatha confirmed the investigation into Ngobeni, but said that he would wait for an outcome before deciding whether she would be suspended.

Panday and senior police procurement official Colonel Navin Madhoe had gone to court this week to apply for bail after being arrested over allegedly attempting to bribe Major-General Johan Booysen, the provincial head of the Hawks.

They are accused of asking Booysen to doctor documents authorising a probe of Panday’s bank accounts. The two also allegedly plotted to have Booysen killed after he had them arrested in a sting operation for trying to pay him R1.3 million to derail the case.

In an affidavit submitted to the court, Herbst said Booysen had been summoned by Ngobeni to her office in June last year to meet with Panday and his lawyer, Tashya Giyapersad, who claimed the probe had been conducted ­illegally.

“As a matter of fact, Lieutenant-General Ngobeni did stop the investigation,” Herbst stated. “Although Ngobeni did stop the investigation, she did not have the mandate to close it as we report to the national head (Dramat) of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks).

After consulting with him, he ­instructed that the investigation must continue,” he said.

Herbst also claims in his affidavit that Giyapersad had contacted a state witness in the case – ­businessman Seelan Govender.

In his affidavit, Booysen confirmed the meetings with Ngobeni and said Giyapersad had contacted the witnesses illegally without securing permission from the ­Director of Public Prosecutions.

He added that at a third meeting in Ngobeni’s office, also in June, Ngobeni had “made it clear that there is a criminal case against them and that she cannot prevent an investigation”.

However, the probe was stopped.

An additional affidavit from ­police intelligence officer Colonel Brian Padayachee reveals how the lives of Booysen and his team have been under threat since October last year.

An intelligence operation revealed that a network of senior and junior police officers were working with Panday and members of the syndicate he was allegedly involved in, giving them their personal and family details, as well as details of the police strategy in the corruption probe.

Last month, Padayachee received additional information that a senior police officer had allegedly offered to help Panday kill Booysen.

In response to Herbst’s allegations, Panday said in an affidavit that the probe against him had been “terminated by the office of the provincial commissioner” because the original investigator, Colonel Vassan Soobramoney, had conducted a “vendetta” against him.

He said Booysen and his team had adopted a “subjective” view against him based on a belief that he had “a level of influence over the provincial commissioner who they seem to view as a suspect”.

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