Intelligence officials took 9-day trip to Singapore for 4-hour purchase, Zondo commission hears

2019-09-30 17:35
State capture inquiry. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

State capture inquiry. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

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Crime intelligence officials took a nine-day trip to Singapore to buy equipment for operational needs but only spent four hours at the electronics store and the remainder on vacation, the commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Monday.

The trip, from November 20 to 29, 2009, was undertaken by former intelligence head Richard Mdluli and his spouse, former chief financial officer General Solly Lazarus and his spouse, Colonel Hein Barnard and his wife, as well as whistle blower Colonel Dhanajaya Naidoo, among others.

"The reason was to buy equipment for the operational needs of crime intelligence," Naidoo explained.

"I was in Lazarus' office prior to flying to Singapore and FM09 [an agent who cannot be named] was there. I asked him why am I going on this trip and why was I flying with the secret service account [SSA] when others were flying on the open account. He told me it was Mdluli's instruction and I didn't take it further."

Naidoo made the bookings for the trip.

Mdluli, Lazarus and their spouses flew business class while the rest flew economy, the Zondo commission heard as it delves into the alleged looting of the SSA within crime intelligence.

While the trip resulted in the purchase of equipment, Naidoo was of the view that it was an "unnecessary" expense.

"We purchased equipment. In the two days, we only spent four hours in total at this store, it is not a covert shop - it was an electronics mall. The rest of the time we spent shopping and sight-seeing.

"In my view, this trip was not necessary at all because all these things could have been purchased over the internet and couriered to South Africa, or worst-case scenario one member of the technical team could have made the purchase," Naidoo explained.

ALSO READ: Richard Mdluli allegedly looted Crime Intelligence secret service account, state capture inquiry hears

In addition, the goods purchased in Singapore were not declared at customs upon their return to South Africa, he added.

Naidoo told the commission this was because Mdluli and Lazarus allegedly did not want customs to see their purchases.

The trip came two weeks after Mdluli and his wife had travelled to China to visit their daughter who was studying there at the time.

Tickets for the China trip amounted to roughly R86 000, and R50 000 of that amount was paid through the SSA while another R50 000 came from a donation, Naidoo explained.

"On November 7, when Mdluli was due to fly to China, Lazarus instructed me to take a R10 000 advance in my name intended for Mdluli for his trip to China. I obtained it and I met Mdluli at the airport and I gave him R20 000, this was the R10 000 advance and another R10 000 came from the change of the R100 000 gathered for the ticket money.

"The tickets cost R86 000, R13 000 was left over."

Naidoo - who now goes by another name and has been in witness protection for eight years – was testifying at a secret location in-camera (behind closed doors).

The inquiry continues on Tuesday.

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