Former SARS exec in bid to shake ‘rogue’ charges
Johann van Loggerenberg wants an urgent probe into the prosecutors behind the 'rogue unit' charges
Former top SARS official Johann van Loggerenberg has gone to court to force the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to consider dropping the so-called “rogue unit” case against him – and to launch an urgent investigation into the three senior prosecutors behind those charges.
Van Loggerenberg wants the High Court in Pretoria to overturn the decision by former national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams to not withdraw the “rogue unit” case, and wants the new permanent NDPP – yet to be appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa – to make a fresh decision on whether he and his co-accused should go on trial.
This application, which was brought last month, will pave the way for a new NDPP to kill the “rogue unit” prosecution if Van Loggerenberg succeeds.
The case has been mired in controversy, which only intensified after the NPA elected to charge then finance minister Pravin Gordhan in relation to its SARS investigations, and then withdrew those charges two weeks later.
The NPA has, however, indicated it would fight Van Loggerenberg’s application, and believes there is a strong basis for him and his co-accused to stand trial.
In letters sent to Van Loggerenberg’s attorneys before he was removed as NPA head, Abrahams said he supported the decision to pursue the case taken by his prosecutors.
Van Loggerenberg and former SARS officials Ivan Pillay and Andries Janse van Rensburg were charged with the illegal interception of communications and corruption, charges that are linked to the installation of cameras at the offices of the NPA.
All three have denied the accusations against them.
Van Loggerenberg says suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane, who is currently trying to challenge the fairness of the misconduct hearing against him in the Constitutional Court, was the person who opened the case. He and Pillay have also stated the NPA has “consistently demonstrated clear bias and malice‚ which appear to have been driven by the concerns of Moyane”.
The three men stand accused of using this equipment to spy on the now-defunct Scorpions and the NPA in 2007 when the Scorpions were pursuing corruption cases against former police chief Jackie Selebi and former president Jacob Zuma.
Van Loggerenberg contends that NPA advocates Sibongile Mzinyathi, Torie Pretorius and Sipho Maema never sought his side of the story on the charges he now faces, and says Pretorius and Mzinyathi lied under oath when they claimed in court that they had obtained this response in a “warning statement”.
He has also denied the NPA’s claims that he chose to not give them any answers.
In court documents, it has emerged that the Hawks did obtain an incomplete warning statement from Van Loggerenberg in August 2016, in response to totally different allegations.
While Van Loggerenberg’s lawyers claim the Hawks promised him time to respond fully to the allegations against him – and provide them with documentation to back up his defence – they say the Hawks broke this promise and handed the docket to the NPA in September 2016.
The state then charged Gordhan and former SARS commissioners Pillay and Oupa Magashula with fraud over Pillay’s early retirement deal one month later, and then hastily withdrew that case.
Van Loggerenberg wants the NPA to investigate Mzinyathi, Pretorius and Maema’s conduct in relation to the decision to prosecute him, and has asked that the state consider suspending them.
The NPA is expected to file a full response in the coming weeks.