Suspensions could affect trials

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A HIGH-PROFILE businessman accused of fraud and bribery and a man charged with the murder of a policeman investigating a R100 million counterfeit scam could walk escape prosecution if the latest move to suspend members of the disbanded Hawks Durban Organised Crime Unit and KZN Hawks head Major-General Johan Booysen succeeds.

There are also concerns that many high court trials in which the officers are the investigating officers or witnesses will have to be abandoned or delayed.

The policemen have been involved in several cases due to go to court before the end of the year, including that of millionaire Umhlanga businessman and former Pietermaritzburg resident Thoshan Panday and provincial police supply chain head Col Navin Madhoe. They face charges of fraud amounting to R60 million for allegedly inflating the price of hotel accommodation during the 2010 soccer World Cup. They also face a charge of bribery for allegedly offering Booysen R 1,7 million for a document pertaining to the accommodation investigation.

Another case due to be finalised is that of the murder of Warrant Officer Johan Nortje, who was gunned down outside his Montclair home in June last year. Nortje had been investigating a counterfeit scam and had made a R100 million bust at the harbour shortly before his murder.

Three men are soon to go on trial for Nortje’s murder after being arrested by members of the Durban Organised Crime Unit. Investigating officer Shane Naidoo is among the officers facing suspension.

The unit’s members and Booysen, who all face murder, racketeering and other charges, were ordered by national Hawks head Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat to go on vacation with immediate effect on Wednesday. The notice said the officers faced suspension because of the charges they face and for bringing the SA Police Service into dis­repute. The notices were signed by deputy national commissioner Lieutenant-General Magda Stander, who retired from the SAPS yesterday.

Hawks spokesperson Macintosh Polela would not say why Stander, and not Dramat, had signed the notice. “This has nothing to do with the media, but is an issue between employer and employee. All I can say is that the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against any member of the SAPS who faces criminal charges,” said Polela yesterday. Dramat referred all calls to Polela.

However, members of the unit said the Hawks had made the matter public by “parading” them for photographs and publicly arresting them.

Shaun Naidoo, brother of Shane Naidoo, said that despite having his brother’s address, the investigating officers had gone to his ailing mother’s house at 1 am yesterday to deliver the suspension notice.

“My mother has renal failure and was alone. She is so traumatised she cannot speak properly today. They rattled the gates and banged on the doors, revving their cars, hooting and causing a commotion in the early part of the morning. My mother was terrified and refused to open the gate for them. They swore at her and threatened her,” said Shaun.

Their younger brother Leon died in June this year, hours after hearing of Shane’s arrest.

Other officers said the way the notices were served was part of ongoing action to “humiliate and intimidate” them.

Attorney Carl van der Merwe, who is representing all the policemen and Booysen, said he had received the notices and would be defending the matter vociferously.

Earlier this year, the policemen and Booysen were served with another notice of intention to suspend them, soon after some of them were charged. Booysen successfully fought his notice while the other policemen had not heard anything further on the matter until now.

Provincial police commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni said yesterday she could not comment on the arrests or the suspension notices.

She said disbanding the unit had not impacted on crime fighting as “there is an abundance of specialised units in place to deal with serious and violent crimes”.

CURRENTLY out on bail, the policemen face: two charges of racketeering, 19 of murder, one of attempted murder, nine of housebreaking, three of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, 25 of unlawful possession of firearms, 24 of unlawful possession of ammunition, six of theft, three of unlawfully pointing a firearm, one of malicious damage to property, and 23 of defeating the ends of justice.

The charges relate to the death of suspects and state that the unit operated as an “enterprise” under Booysen’s command. The police officers will appear in the Durban Regional Court on October 29.

The cases that could be affected

- The trial of two suspects accused of killing Maphumulo policemen Samuel Dludla and Vincent Sithole during a pension payout heist on November 9, 2008, is due to resume next week. Several policemen from the unit are due to give evidence and the investigating officer is one of the officers facing suspension.

- The trial of five men accused of robbing Sibaya Casino in 2010

also comes before court soon. The men allegedly robbed the casino and shot a patron as they fled. The suspects were arrested by members of the unit in various places, including Johannesburg.

- Several suspects arrested for the 2010 murder of a Greenwood Park policeman are also due to go on trial this year. Many policemen from the unit are witnesses in this case.

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