I was not appointed to protect anyone - Shaun Abrahams on links to Bosasa bosses

2018-09-26 21:33
Shaun Abrahams. Picture: Gallo

Shaun Abrahams. Picture: Gallo

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Former national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams has responded to revelations that Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson planned to lobby former president Jacob Zuma over the appointment of a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss.

Abrahams denied ever discussing the Bosasa matter with Zuma and explained he put his prosecutors under intense pressure to finalise the matter.

He further denied that he was appointed to protect any NPA official.

News24 on Wednesday revealed the contents of a secret recording of a meeting between Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi and former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti on May 8, 2015.

Watson is captured on the recording discussing his plans to speak with Zuma about the appointment of an NDPP and how Bosasa was a victim of an elaborate plot by the media and anti-ANC elements to discredit them.

He refers to a planned meeting with Zuma after the former president returned from Russia. Zuma was in Russia on May 8 and 9, 2015.

Zuma appointed Abrahams as NDPP in June 2015.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) found in 2009 that Bosasa, now named African Global Operations, allegedly paid bribes to Mti and correctional services chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham in exchange for tenders worth more than R1.5bn, from catering to fencing, at prisons around the country.

This report was handed to the NPA in 2010 and a Hawks investigation was launched around the same time. To date, no charges have been brought.

ALSO READ: Exclusive: How Bosasa bragged of Zuma, NPA influence

Abrahams and the NPA, in an official response to questions, have laid the blame for the nearly decade-long delay on the Hawks and their failure to ensure the finalisation of a forensic report.

News24 has also established that Abrahams removed the lead prosecutor assigned to the Bosasa matter, advocate Marijke de Kock, in February 2016 over the delays.

"Mr President, we need to get this thing closed down. We need the right people in the right place," the Bosasa CEO Watson had planned to tell Zuma.

"Ntlemeza is the right guy at that place, doing what he can. Now we need to get the right person at [the] NPA. Either we get Chauke in, or Jiba or the woman down in Natal. One of them got to… look at what's happened to Jiba. Jiba is buggered up in the press, he (Zuma) told me that," said Watson, referring to then deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba.

Watson also mentions former Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza, Gauteng DPP Andrew Chauke, then head of the Serious Commercial Crimes Unit Lawrence Mrwebi and refers to KwaZulu-Natal DPP Moipone Noko (a protégé of Jiba's who was appointed to the top prosecutorial office in KwaZulu-Natal by Zuma in 2013).

"Now Jiba's been buggered up, Mrwebi has also been buggered up, okay, in the press. So how do we protect them, Mr President? By putting the right person in there. I don't know who is advising Mr President, but you need to make the right decisions now. You haven't got much time to go. That's how I talk to him," Watson says.

In August 2015 Abrahams withdrew charges of fraud and perjury against Jiba in relation to her decision to prosecute former KZN Hawks boss General Johan Booysen on charges of racketeering. He clarified on Wednesday that he did not make that decision himself. 

At the time, he was quoted as saying that he had received the decision from the NPA's then Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU) head advocate Marshall Mokgatle as well as Mokgatle's opinion not to charge Jiba and that decisions were not made by him alone, but by the collective leadership of the NPA. 

In December 2017, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria set aside this decision and ordered Zuma to institute disciplinary proceedings against Jiba and Mrwebi.

In light of an appeal filed by Jiba and Mrwebi, Zuma did not do so.

"With respect, the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court got it wrong. I did not make the decision, and that is why we are appealing the matter," Abrahams told News24 on Wednesday. 

Abrahams also told News24 that he had never met "any of those Bosasa people".

"I don't know who they are. I have never met them. I have never discussed with the former president around the Bosasa matter, and nobody ever said to me when I was appointed that you are appointed to protect anybody," Abrahams said.

He explained that after his appointment as NDPP, he received briefings on high-profile matters, including Bosasa.

During De Kock's briefing to Abrahams, he said it turned out that she had given the same briefing to his predecessors a year before.

"So I was very unhappy at the time. I immediately asked the acting head of the SCCU… I terminated the appointment of the prosecutor that was involved and I appointed a new prosecuting team," he said. 

"I was unhappy with the progress that was being made at the time and with the investigation as well. There were dockets that were missing. I subsequently appointed a new prosecuting team. We put a lot of pressure on the team to work hard on the matter."

He said at the time that the only thing missing was a forensic report which he did not receive up until his departure from the NPA.

"There was a draft indictment that had been crafted and we were only awaiting the outstanding forensic report."

Abrahams also revealed that before he left the NPA in August, following a Constitutional Court ruling that set aside his appointment as NDPP, he had written to Hawks boss Godfrey Lebeya to express his "disquiet" over the outstanding forensic report.

"Nobody could be charged up until such a time as the forensic report was finalised. That letter is there. I can assure you, I have always put the institution first. I have always ensured that justice must run its course."

At the time of writing, the Hawks had not responded questions over the delays in the matter, which were sent on Tuesday.

Read more on:    npa  |  shaun abrahams

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