'Death squad' cops to challenge racketeering charge

2015-06-23 11:32
Cato Manor officers appear in court. (Jeff Wicks, News24)

Cato Manor officers appear in court. (Jeff Wicks, News24)

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Durban - Attorneys representing the so-called “Cato Manor Death Squad” are set to challenge the racketeering charges against the squad, the High Court in Durban heard on Tuesday.

KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen, charged along with the 28 officers, has already successfully had racketeering charges against him set aside.

State Advocate Sello Maema requested a remand by mutual agreement while this challenge is being prepared.

This is the latest in a string of remands of the case, which has stretched over nearly four years since 28 members of the Cato Manor Serious and Violent Crimes Unit were arrested.

Short appearance

The squad face a litany of charges including theft and murder, specifically of suspects during the course of their arrests.

They allegedly killed these suspects or rivals of taxi operators they were doing business with and planted weapons to create the impression that the killings were justified.

The officers shuffled into the dock for an appearance that lasted less than a minute, before the matter was remanded until August 14.

The cost of prosecuting the officers, who have been suspended on full pay since their arrest in 2012, continues to mount and is estimated to be in the tens of millions.

The investigation of the alleged “hit squad” took 18 months to complete after a Sunday Times exposé into the operation of the unit.

In Booysen’s application to the High Court, he told of how his corruption investigation into a businessman with political and police connections had resulted in his being targeted. The members of the unit appear to be collateral damage.

Racketeering charges

The State withdrew charges of racketeering following a ruling handed down by Judge Trevor Gorven at the end of February, in which he condemned a decision by then acting national director of public prosecutions Nomcobo Jiba to prosecute Booysen, saying the charges did not meet even the barest of minimum requirements.

Jiba had said in her court papers that the unit acted like an organised crime organisation.

Booysen was charged in August 2012 with managing and participating in the “enterprise” through a pattern of racketeering activity.

Apart from the racketeering charges, Booysen was accused of two murders, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

In his judgment, Gorven wrote: “Even accepting the least stringent test for rationality imaginable, the decision of the NDPP does not pass muster.

“I can conceive of no test for rationality, however relaxed, which could be satisfied by her explanation. The impugned decisions were arbitrary, offend the principle of legality and, therefore, the rule of law, and were unconstitutional.”

Jiba has since been charged and goes on trial in August for alleged fraud and perjury in the Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria.

She will have to answer to allegations that stem from her failed bid to lay racketeering charges against Booysen.

Read more on:    police  |  npa  |  durban  |  crime

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