The state has withdrawn fraud and corruption charges against former acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane and his two co-accused.
In a brief appearance before the Serious Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria on Thursday, the state was denied an application for a three-month postponement to allow police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), more time to complete its investigation.
Prosecutor Chris Smith asked for more time to investigate because “the investigation had expanded and several forensic reports were still outstanding”, and “more accused may be added to the charge sheet”.
Magistrate Nicola Setshoege was, however, unconvinced.
She said that “there was too much uncertainty” around the case and that there was no clear indication that, even if the matter was postponed for three months, the state would be ready to proceed to trial.
The defence was opposed to a postponement, arguing that the matter should be struck from the roll as the accused had the right to a speedy trial.
Setshoege agreed, adding that “the application for postponement would be prejudicial towards the accused”.
Phahlane, his wife Beauty Phahlane and car dealer Durandt Snyman were facing six counts of corruption, money laundering and fraud.
Ipid alleged that Snyman, who is contracted to supply vehicles to the SA Police Service (SAPS), gave the Phahlanes vehicles that were bought with the SAPS’ money.
In March, News24 reported that Ipid would also charge the Phahlanes for corruption involving SAPS supplier Keith Keating and his company, Forensic Data Analysts.
In December, a joint operation between the Hawks and Ipid saw seven properties connected to Keating and Phahlane raided, and it was revealed last year that Keating’s company had allegedly received R5 billion in SAPS contracts since 2010.
Ipid believed Keating had paid for vehicles for Phahlane, his wife and sister, facilitated by Snyman.
On February 7, the Phahlanes handed themselves over to the police. They appeared in court alongside Snyman and were charged with corruption, money laundering and fraud. They were released on R10 000 bail each.
When the trio appeared in court in March, the prosecutor told the magistrate that they were ready to set a date to go to trial.
After dismissing the state’s application for a postponement on Thursday, the court was obliged to withdraw the matter, but it may re-enrol the case at a later stage.
The SA Policing Union on Monday noted with concern the SAPS’ delay in dealing with Phahlane’s disciplinary case and called for a speedy resolution to the matter. Monday marked a year since Phahlane was suspended with full benefits.
The union argued that the manner in which the SAPS was dealing with Phahlane’s disciplinary case was reminiscent of the way it dealt with controversial former head of crime intelligence Richard Mdluli, who was suspended with full benefits for almost seven years.