Paying for Ngobeni’s party

2014-10-04 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’S police boss, Commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni, has always denied that controversial businessperson Thoshan Panday bankrolled her top cop husband’s birthday bash — but here’s the proof that he did.

Weekend Witness has obtained evidence that proves Panday — once a suspect in a major corruption probe involving police accommodation — bankrolled a fancy bash for her husband, Brigadier Lucas Ngobeni, in 2010.

An investigation by Weekend Witness has unravelled provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Ngobeni’s years of denials and shows how Panday settled the tab.

Ngobeni has also been accused of trying to stop investigations into Panday, and the allegations that Panday paid for the party led to an earlier corruption probe.

The Hawks investigated Ngobeni for Panday’s party payments but the inquiry was abandoned.

But the dossier obtained during our investigation reveals compelling documents, including copies of invoices, payment slips and sworn statements, that show how Panday:

• paid a deposit of R10 000 to book the venue and paid a balance of over R8 000 with his credit card;

• secured the services of a DJ at over R2 000 for the evening;

• had a duplicate invoice produced, in which the bill was intentionally inflated to nearly R30 000;

• paid for flower arrangements and décor; and

• even had a hand in the layout of the tables.

The party at the Dish restaurant at Durban’s Royal Palm Hotel had been a gilded affair, replete with gold overlays and chair covers, which Panday allegedly paid for.

Panday has in the past denied that he had paid for the swanky soirée. When asked for comment yesterday, he threatened our reporter (see sidebar).

Ngobeni said that she would not respond to “baseless rumours” (see sidebar).

The dossier includes a sworn statement from the then Dish Restaurant manager, Freddy Singh, in which he detailed how Panday had a hand in organising the party, paid for it in full and also generated several invoices that would eventually implicate Ngobeni.

Singh confirmed this week that he had written the affidavit.

Panday had visited the restaurant extensively in 2010, Singh said in his statement.

“Towards the end of May, Mr Panday inquired about our private functions and the costs thereof. He asked me to put together a package for 40 guests and requested that I give him a good price,” he said.

Panday had paid a R10 000 cash deposit, and told Singh that he would settle the balance and pay for drinks.

The former manager said that Panday stayed away from the function, which included thousands spent on expensive whisky and seafood platters.

“Panday settled the outstanding amount with his credit card. Three days later, Mr Panday visited me at the restaurant and requested that I print a tax invoice for the function. He requested that I inflate the original amount and to issue it in the name of B.M. Ngobeni and to backdate it to the day of the party. I also had to reflect his name opposite the job number,” he wrote.

In another affidavit, DJ Narendra Maharaj said he was hired by Panday.

“Panday contacted me and engaged my services to entertain his friends … and agreed on the price of R2 250 for the evening and he would pay me after the function.

“He told me that guests of honour would be a police general and that it was a birthday party for her husband. During the evening, I was introduced to General Ngobeni and her husband and took pictures of them while they enjoyed their evening,” he wrote.

Maharaj says in his statement that Gold Coast Trading CC, a Panday entity, deposited his fee a week later.

Both Panday and Ngobeni faced a fraud and corruption investigation relating to the party, but the National Prosecuting Authority decided not to prosecute them.

The charges centred on Ngobeni’s relationship with Panday, whose company made nearly R60 million from securing accommodation for the police.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson said that the prosecution was abandoned because “the prosecutor found that there was insufficient evidence to place the matter on the roll”.

He and two other senior officers had already been under investigation for their alleged role in the accommodation scam, a fact that Ngobeni was aware of.

Documents revealed that when the party was thrown, Ngobeni had allegedly already tried to halt the investigation into Panday.

Panday, along with Colonel Navin Madhoe and Captain Ashwin Narainpersad, have had all charges against them provisionally withdrawn.

KZN Hawks head Johan Booysen and 28 men under his indirect command were suspended on Ngobeni’s watch, something the top Hawk maintains was retribution for his probe into Panday.

In a disciplinary hearing for Booysen, the chairperson castigated Ngobeni for refusing to appear and give evidence specifically pertaining to her alleged interference in the corruption investigation.

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