The KwaZulu-Natal head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and former acting AFU head Advocate Knorx Mollele, has been suspended.
According to two senior sources within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and a third in the Department of Justice, Molelle was placed on suspension by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola this week. The sources, who spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity, said the suspension stemmed from the appointment of curators in two separate cases in which arms of the state were trying to claw back funds lost to state capture.
News24 understands the National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi made a recommendation Molelle be suspended, which was accepted by Lamola.
The first, it is understood, relates to R1 billion in fees paid to multi-national consultancy firm McKinsey & Company by Eskom. Trillion Capital Partners – a local financial advisory firm with close links to the Gupta brothers – were paid R600 million in fees as Mckinsey’s "supply development partner".
In 2018, when a lawsuit brought by the NPA loomed large, McKinsey voluntarily paid back their fees to Eskom.
Even though these funds were already "secured", said a source, Molelle was steadfast in appointing a firm of Durban-based curators.
"The curator did not take control of the money because they were not needed, yet the company was paid over R18m.
"The money was in the victim’s [Eskom] bank account, the curator would have had no role," the source alleged.
The other case which is alleged to have signalled Molelle’s suspension was that of the tainted Estina Dairy farm scam. The Free State provincial government had bankrolled the Estina project to the tune of R220 million, with a mere R2 million being spent on the farm, and the rest siphoned off to the Gupta family and their associates.
Molelle was appointed as acting head of the AFU during the tenure of former NDPP advocate Shaun Abrahams.
He managed the the asset recovery arm of the NPA when it instituted action against the Gupta family and their companies in connection with the Estina case. Criminal charges were provisionally withdrawn, and provisional restraint order was lifted in May 2018.
"The curator claims to have restrained R700m in assets, yet it was only R250m that was secured. The fees paid to curators are a percentage of the total amount restrained.
"Curators either did no work, or their bills were extremely inflated," the source alleged.
Department of Justice spokesman Crispin Phiri referred requests for comment to the NPA. NPA spokesman Sipho Ngwema could not be reached for comment.
Repeated attempts to contact Molelle on Friday were not successful.
This is a developing story.