In a case that potentially places ANC secretary general Ace Magashule at the centre of the bizarre theft of a Pierneef painting worth millions, the Hawks’ investigation into the alleged theft of the artwork from the Free State premier’s office is complete.
Daily Maverick exposed the alleged theft last year.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha confirmed to News24 on Wednesday that the docket had been handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for a decision to be made on whether to prosecute.
No arrests had been made at this stage, he said.
Free State spokesperson Phaladi Shuping confirmed that the docket had been handed over, but said that no decision on whether to prosecute had been taken yet.
There is no evidence that the Hawks are investigating Magashule with regards to the case, but he was the premier of the province when the painting went missing from that office.
Ramovha confirmed that the investigation by the Hawks concerned the alleged theft of the painting, and no other charges are included in the docket at this point. However, he said it was up to the NPA to decide whether more charges will be added.
Ramovha said he could not divulge whether any suspects had been questioned by the Hawks or who is under investigation.
In October 2018, Daily Maverick’s Scorpio reported that a painting by South African painter JH Pierneef, belonging to the Free State provincial government, had gone missing from the Free State premier’s office earlier that year. The artwork has an estimated value of about R8m, according to the publication.
The painting was allegedly stolen when Magashule was still premier, although he was on his way out, having been elected as ANC secretary general a few months prior.
A former member of Magashule’s security detail reportedly told Daily Maverick that the painting was mistakenly given to him by Magashule as he was helping the former premier clean out his office. He reportedly said this was an "honest mistake", and that the artwork was accidentally placed amongst Magashule's things.
However, the painting was allegedly passed on to a Bloemfontein businessman, who reportedly took it to an auction house to have it valued. The auction house was reportedly concerned about the painting's origins and called in Pierneef experts to try to locate the painting's true owner.
An image of the painting was reportedly used by the auction house in an advert calling for consignments for an upcoming auction. This apparently caught the attention of an art expert who alerted provincial government officials that one of their paintings might have been stolen, Daily Maverick reported. The matter was then reported to the Hawks by the auction house's law firm.