Slick break-in at Hawks HQ points to 'rogue intelligence job'

2017-07-05 18:31
The Hawks head offices. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Beeld)

The Hawks head offices. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Beeld)

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Pretoria - The theft of computers from the apparently secure Hawks headquarters in Pretoria raises suspicions that the burglary was a "rogue intelligence job".

It also highlights the existence of a "shadow state", where criminal elements in state and crime intelligence were diverting resources for their own agenda, Gareth Newham, head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, said on Wednesday.

Buildings or offices which handled highly sensitive matters were subject to minimum information security standards.

"It is not easy to break in if you don't have knowledge about how they [the buildings] are protected, how the card system works."

It was not immediately clear what the intruders were looking for.

"You wouldn't want to risk breaking in for old computers. This suggests that it is not about making money."

READ: Computers stolen in brazen burglary at Hawks head office

Confidential information

The burglary, which happened between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, saw intruders gain access to the human resources, finance and supply chain departments. Confidential information was kept there.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi tried to allay fears, saying that no dockets were taken.

However, forensic and fingerprint officials still had to determine whether any documents were missing.

Mulaudzi told News24 there were no visible signs of a break-in.

"The only way through to access the environment is to use access cards. We will be looking at the security to see if it is up to scratch or not, and if not, surely we must take action."

Acting Hawks head Lieutenant-General Yolisa Matakata condemned the burglary in Silverton and assured a "crack team" will lead the investigation.

They will communicate further information in due course.

The burglary follows a tense exchange between former hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula in April.

READ: Former Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza reports for duty - lawyer

Similar break-ins

Ntlemeza pitched up for work at the time despite being fired from his job. A High Court ruling found his appointment invalid and set it aside.

Mbalula had threatened to arrest Ntlemeza for leaving with a state vehicle.

"General Ntlemeza, you must know I am coming for you. You are working 24-hours to do an illegal operation... I'm going to unleash the law," Mbalula said at a press briefing at the time.

"I'm aware about operations, working in safe houses to undertake an operation on the minister of police. I'm aware and I'm coming for them," he said.

In March, 15 computers were stolen from the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand.

READ: State's case against alleged Chief Justice burglar is weak - lawyer

At the time, then acting national police commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane said the computers were taken from the HR department and contained sensitive information about the country's judges.

A few days later, an organised group of robbers got away with computers at the Helen Suzman Foundation's offices in Johannesburg.

Similar break-ins have taken place at offices in the parliamentary precinct and offices of lawyers, Newham said.

"This is clearly a trend. No-one is convicted. People are arrested and eventually it comes out that there is nothing linking them.

"Intelligence is not being used to fight crime but to spy on people who are deemed 'enemies of the state', the judiciary, independent media; civil society."

He said this reinforced the need for a full scale judiciary inquiry into the abuse of state intelligence.

Read more on:    iss  |  hawks  |  pretoria  |  crime

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