National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi has withdrawn racketeering charges against former Hawks General Johan Booysen and several current and former officers.
A panel comprising advocates Rodney de Kock, Ivy Thenga, Shareen Riley and Elijah Mamabolo reviewed the decisions by former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) heads Nomgcobo Jiba and Shaun Abrahams to prosecute the officers for the contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, the NPA said in statement on Tuesday.
The NPA said a series of other charges, including murder, housebreaking and defeating the ends of justice, would be referred back to the acting Director of Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, advocate Elaine Zungu, to decide whether to prosecute the "individuals who may be implicated in those matters".
The statement read: "The unanimous conclusion of the panel is that 'in respect of the authorisations a proper case was not made out on the papers presented'. The panel has recommended that the authorisations, of both Adv Jiba and Adv Abrahams, are invalid."
It added: "After a careful consideration of the report and other relevant material, and a discussion with the panel, the NDPP has decided that the said authorisations are invalid. As a result, the racketeering charges will be withdrawn against all the accused."
The NPA said Zungu would contact the families of the people killed in cases the current and former officers are linked to to inform them of Batohi's decision.
"It is important for them to know that the withdrawal of the racketeering charges does not mean that there will be no justice for victims of the crimes. Where there is sufficient evidence that actions of the police amount to criminal conduct, those responsible will be prosecuted and held accountable," said the prosecuting authority.
The charges relate to the actions of a unit of the police based in Cato Manor.
Booysen himself accepted an early retirement agreement from the police. His last day of service was on February 28, 2017.
Giving testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture in April, Booysen claimed former police minister Nathi Mthethwa pressured prosecutors to arrest the unit on racketeering charges. At the Mokgoro inquiry into the fitness of Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi to hold office, Booysen said Jiba, a former acting NPA boss, decided to prosecute him without having enough evidence.
Mthethwa and Jiba have denied Booysen's claims.
The unit was termed the "Cato Manor Death Squad" after the Sunday Times reported on a series of claims against the team of officers.
The report led to the police and the NPA charging Booysen and his team. In 2012, they were arrested and charged with 116 criminal counts, including racketeering, murder and attempted murder.
In 2018, the Sunday Times apologised for getting it wrong on the unit in a series of articles.
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