'Death Squad' fight continues in court

2016-05-13 14:50
Cato Manor officers appear in court. (Jeff Wicks, News24)

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

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Durban - Embattled KZN Hawks head Johan Booysen and members of the so-called "Cato Manor death squad" have launched a fresh bid to have racketeering charges against them set aside.

The move comes in response to racketeering charges - linked to the alleged operation of a police hit squad for financial reward - being reinstated by National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams in February.

Should the application be successful, it would be the latest in a string of court victories celebrated by the officers.

Booysen had successfully had the racketeering charges against him set aside, and the remainder of the police officers in the unit have a pending application in the same vein.

The charges were scuppered as Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, who authorised their prosecution at the time, was found to wanting in terms of law.

In a founding affidavit deposed by Booysen and members of the police unit, they punched holes in the reinstatement of the racketeering charges and painted it as a blatant attempt to side-line Booysen after his investigation into politically connected businessman Thoshan Panday, who had been allegedly shielded by Provincial Police Commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni.

Panday and his web of companies had banked millions in police procurement contracts, which had become the subject of an investigation into his activities and his links to top police officials.

Abuse of prosecutorial power

"The Abrahams Authorisations [of racketeering certificates], as well as the accompanying indictments, are identical in all material respects to the Jiba Authorisations," the affidavit read.

"In addition, both our attorney and I have been informed by the police and the prosecutor that 'nothing has changed' and that Abrahams did not rely on any information that was not before Jiba. Indeed, Abrahams does not appear to have applied his mind to whether or not he should authorise the charges. For example, if he had so applied his mind, he could not and indeed would not have authorised charges against somebody who was already deceased. But that is what he did."

"Subsequent to issuing his own authorisations, Abrahams purported to 'withdraw' the Jiba Authorisations. This patently unlawful attempt to justify his already unlawful conduct act shows the Abrahams Authorisations for what they are: a clear abuse of prosecutorial power. They are part of a pattern of illegal activity by the NPA aimed at prosecuting us for crimes we have not committed, and with a clearly ulterior purpose," the applicants wrote.   

"I contend that I have been targeted by SAPS and the NPA because of my attempts to effectively investigate senior members of SAPS and a politically connected businessman. The remaining Applicants have been drawn into the attempts to discredit me for doing my job. There is no basis for racketeering charges against any of us."

Booysen and members of the unit are seeking that the new racketeering certificates authorising their prosecution be reviewed and set aside, that Abrahams pay a personal costs order and that the NPA is interdicted from a similar move in the future.

Litany of charges

In providing background to the saga, the applicants wrote:

"As the above narrative demonstrates, the Applicants – and particularly myself [Booysen] – have been the subject of a pattern of attempts to frame us for wrongdoing without any evidence. The POCA charges in particular are a brazen and disingenuous attempt to manufacture a criminal charge against us without any factual basis."

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 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.

Read more on:    police  |  durban  |  crime

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