Fraud-accused ex-AFU head Knorx Molelle exits NPA after secret settlement deal with State

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Advocate Knorx Molelle.
Advocate Knorx Molelle.
Busi Nyembezi
  • Acting Special Director of Public Prosecutions of the Asset Forfeiture Unit Knorx Molelle was placed on precautionary suspension in November 2020 for alleged gross misconduct and negligence linked to two major state capture cases.
  • The National Prosecuting Authority alleged that Molelle launched unnecessary or doomed asset preservation cases in relation to the alleged Estina dairy farm scam and the unlawful R1.2 billion in fees paid by Eskom to Gupta-linked McKinsey.
  • In a brief statement to News24, that NPA confirmed that it reached a "confidential" agreement with Molelle that he will leave the prosecuting authority.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has reached a secret exit deal with former Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) head Knorx Molelle, who it accused of wasting millions in taxpayer funds on pointless state capture litigation.

But, in a statement to News24, the NPA stressed that the confidential agreement would not shield Molelle from potential criminal prosecution in relation to his conduct.

"The NPA confirms that it has reached an agreement with Knorx Molelle for him to leave the NPA, resulting from the ongoing internal disciplinary process against him," NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said.  

"In view of the confidentiality clause in the settlement, we are not at liberty to disclose the contents thereof. This in no way impacts on the criminal case against him, which is currently being investigated by the Investigating Directorate,"  he added.

As yet, the ID has not confirmed that it is investigating Molelle. Nor has the NPA responded to queries about whether any criminal charges had actually been preferred against him.

Molelle was suspended with full pay from November 2020.

READ | State capture: Top NPA official Knorx Molelle suspended

The NPA contended that he should potentially be fired over alleged "gross misconduct and/or negligence" in asset preservation cases involving the Estina dairy project scam and the R1.2 billion in consultancy fees that Eskom unlawfully paid to Gupta-linked McKinsey.

In a disciplinary inquiry charge sheet served on Molelle in August 2021, the State claimed that the career prosecutor allowed the AFU to persist in its failed efforts to seize R255 million in Gupta family assets allegedly linked to the Estina scam beyond July 2018, "despite having knowledge that the matter was without merit". 

This resulted in "the NPA/AFU incurring numerous costs orders" in cases that were doomed to fail, because of the State's inability to show that Estina funds – intended to empower poor black dairy farmers in Vrede in the Free State – had ended up in Gupta bank accounts. At the time, the family's advocate, Mike Hellens, described the litigation as a "national embarrassment".

Molelle also stood accused of irregularly appointing curators to seize and preserve alleged state capture assets in AFU cases – and then doing nothing to stop them from making "inflated and unreasonable" claims for fees that they had not earned. 

In an interview with News24 in 2020, Molelle vehemently denied any wrongdoing and stressed that he did not have the power to appoint curators in the AFU's cases because they were appointed by courts hearing applications for the freezing of allegedly criminal assets, and their fees were approved by the Master of the High Court.

He has not responded to calls for comment on his exit.

This is a developing story.

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