Operation Top Cop: Mammoth probe into Phahlane
Current fraud and corruption charges are just the tip of the iceberg
The corruption and fraud charges against disgraced former top cop Khomotso Phahlane are just the tip of the iceberg into a mammoth criminal investigation into him, say police sources.
Multiple sources within the Hawks and Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) have revealed how the investigation into Phahlane stretches back at least seven years and is focusing on numerous tenders awarded to multiple companies while he headed the SAPS Forensics Division.
“There are tenders awarded which, over time, have seen more than R5-billion in irregular business being conducted with government,” said one source.
However, Phahlane’s lawyer described the investigation as a witchhunt.Phahlane on Thursday appeared in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court alongside his wife, Brigadier Beauty Phahlane, and used car salesman Durand Snyman to answer to six charges involving an estimated R900 000.
The charges relate to alleged kickbacks the Phahlanes received from the sale and purchase of six vehicles via Snyman in return for companies securing lucrative forensic supply tenders with the police.
The vehicles include a Range Rover and a VW Amarok bakkie.Snyman, who has in the past said he sponsored some of the vehicles to the Phahlanes, is alleged to have been used as a conduit by the supply companies.
On Thursday, all three looked relaxed as their affidavits were read out by their lawyers in a packed courtroom 18, Piet van Wyk and Piet du Plessis. They have denied guilt.
The men, who describe themselves as law-abiding citizens rooted to their communities through their family and businesses, were each granted R10,000 bail and ordered to be back in court on March 12.
Multiple sources within the Hawks and Ipid have revealed how the investigation into Phahlane stretches back at least seven years and is focusing on numerous tenders awarded to multiple companies while he headed the SAPS Forensics Division.
While none of the sources can be named, as they are prohibited from speaking to the media, all confirmed independently that the investigation was "huge".
"We are talking about millions and millions [of rands] paid in alleged kickbacks," said a Hawks source.Another Hawks source said the investigation had been running for months.
“This is a case which has been put together meticulously. It’s been slow, but it is getting there. It is a multi-legged investigation. The court appearance today [Thursday] was just one part of the investigation, which we are running.”
An Ipid source said the investigation was looking into several global forensic procurement and supply companies.
These businesses, he said, had a lot at stake: contracts worth hundreds of millions of rands.
“Some have secured contracts that run into billions of rands. That’s for the procurement, supply and maintenance of equipment vital to the fight against crime.
“The problem is how they were securing these contracts and what they were supplying. They claim they were paying for state-of-the-art products, but in many cases they [the products] appear to have been inferior."
The effect of this, said the source, was that crime scenes could have been jeopardised.
“We are talking about a multi-million house bond, which one section of the investigation is looking at; we are talking about other hefty kickbacks, which have potentially set them up for life.”Another Ipid source said the investigators were now focusing on the forensic analysis of documents and data gleaned from electronic devices.
The documents and items were secured in raids on the Phahlanes’ homes and Snyman’s business late last year.
The source said: “What we have seen so far today in court is just the tip of the iceberg. The bombshells are still to come. The other allegations will expose how deep this rot really goes and will potentially implicate quite a few people, with more arrests, including those of highflying businessmen.”
He said the investigation stretched across numerous government departments and agencies, including the State Information Technology Agency.Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini declined to comment, saying the investigation was highly sensitive.
Phahlane did not return calls or messages.
The Phahlanes’ attorney, Piet du Plessis, said he was unaware of any other specific investigation into his clients. “Ipid has obviously been scratching around wherever they can. It is clear from all that scratching this is the best they can come up with, which is nothing.”
He said the charges were a witch-hunt, with Thursday's court proceedings designed to humiliate his clients.
“They asked for a month’s postponement because the investigation still needs to be completed. Why not complete the investigation and then summons my clients to court? My clients welcome the court case to clear their names in the face of any allegations which have or may still be brought against them.”