Hawks' Mdluli probe finds second secret slush fund
The anti-corruption Hawks unit has uncovered a concealed police bank account through which “vast sums” of money was allegedly illegally siphoned.
The account emerged from the Hawks’ muted but ongoing investigation into fraud claims against newly reinstated crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli. It is separate from the police secret service account, the subject of earlier allegations involving Mdluli.
The latest discovery comes after previous fraud and murder charges were controversially dropped against Mdluli by the National Prosecuting Authority.
The Mail & Guardian has established that the Hawks has continued to investigate the high-ranking cop without his knowledge, on the basis that when there is alleged criminality, the unit has a constitutional obligation to investigate.
Two high-ranking sources familiar with the investigation confirmed the recent discovery of the concealed police bank account, which was allegedly a “private-use slush fund”.
The M&G understands that in one instance, commission received on police vehicles purchased for more than R40-million was placed in this concealed account and kept secret. The investigation into the account is apparently at an early stage.
Using SS account personally
Mdluli was previously accused in an internal police report of allegedly plundering the crime intelligence division’s secret service account to buy cars, houses, holidays and illegally employ his family members as covert agents.
The allegations about the secret service account have been dismissed as groundless by Mdluli and were never tested in court.
Asked whether he knew he was still being investigated for fraud by the Hawks, Mdluli responded by saying he was unaware of it.
“I do not know of any fraud investigation, except that the inspector general of intelligence and auditor general are busy investigating the secret service account,” he said.
Police ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said: “The investigation into crime intelligence is being carried out by a competent office of the inspector general of intelligence and as such, if there are any new reports regarding such — we advise that they be sent to her.”
Asked why Mdluli was not suspended pending the investigations, Mnisi said: “In terms of these other allegations, the presidency and the executive do not involve themselves in operational matters such as the appointment or suspension of South African Police Service managers.”
While the Hawks endeavour to investigate Mdluli, legislation regulating the unit was this week debated in Parliament by the portfolio committee on police.
Members are deliberating whether the South African Police Service Amendment Bill, in its current form, will satisfy the requirement by the Constitutional Court that it protects the Hawks from political interference.
A Constitutional Court judgment, which arose after Johannesburg businessman Hugh Glenister challenged the legislation, found chapter 6A of the South African Police Service Act of 1995 to be constitutionally invalid because it failed to secure an adequate degree of independence for the Hawks.
The debate comes amid speculation that Mdluli will be appointed national police commissioner if Bheki Cele is permanently ousted from his post.
Cele is on suspension, awaiting the outcome of an inquiry into his fitness to hold office.
If Mdluli takes over as national police commissioner, he would be the accounting officer for the Hawks and would have ultimate authority over the unit.
Concern about his promotional prospects is growing in the police, the M&G was informed.
“The Hawks cannot just make up these allegations against Mdluli. That would be fraud and it would end up in court,” said a respected police source. “Nobody is setting up Mdluli.
There is no conspiracy against him.”
Top police sources said that the Constitutional Court was right to worry about insulating the Hawks from outside meddling.
Call for independence
Organisations such as the Open Society Foundation of South Africa, the Legal Resources Centre and Corruption Watch are calling for the establishment of the Hawks as a wholly independent institution, structurally akin to Chapter 9 institutions such as the auditor general or the public protector.
The Hawks now fall under the South African Police Service, which many organisations say is unacceptable, because the relationship between the national police commissioner and the Hawks is particularly problematic for the independent functioning of the corruption-busting unit.
Ironically, if the unit had remained under the National Prosecuting Authority, like the disbanded Scorpions it replaced, the investigation into Mdluli would probably have been stopped, current events have shown.
This week, the head of the specialised commercial crime unit in Pretoria, Glynnis Breytenbach, was suspended a week after she sent a memorandum about Mdluli to the acting head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Nomgcobo Jiba. In her memo, she asked Jiba for further time to investigate the Mdluli fraud allegations and gave reasons why the case should never have been withdrawn, the M&G was informed.
Breytenbach allegedly felt that she had more than enough evidence to prosecute. She is said to be convinced that her suspension was a result of her memo to Jiba.
Ensuring Zuma’s re-election
Asked why Mdluli had not been suspended pending all investigations and had been reinstated in his key post, a high-ranking political source, who is sympathetic to the Hawks, responded swiftly: “He is there to see that President Jacob Zuma is re-elected.”
Police sources said there was “always some sort of interference in high-profile investigations”. The Hawks probe of Mdluli was no different, but the unit was still hoping to achieve a conviction in court, they said.
“Today, everybody will be behind you and tomorrow nobody will be behind you,” said another police source. “It is a bit of a roller coaster.”
This week, it was also revealed in Parliament that Mdluli had shackled the Hawks because they would first have to get permission from him if they wanted to approach a judge to intercept a suspect’s phone calls.
And it is alleged the police’s top brass, including Hawks head Anwa Dramat, is angered by accusations contained in a letter Mdluli wrote to Zuma alleging that his bosses and senior colleagues were co-conspirators in a campaign to discredit him.
Police sources believe Mdluli is being protected by a network of high-ranking political backers.
If this was not the case, they say, Hawks investigators would have been called to the closed meeting of the joint standing committee for intelligence two weeks ago, which was set up to discuss allegations against Mdluli regarding alleged abuses of the secret services account. If called, they claim, they would have revealed “startling” new allegations about the concealed police bank account.
Yet only Mdluli was summonsed to appear behind closed doors before the parliamentary committee.
“Why does nobody want to hear about the investigation?” asked a senior police source.
“The Hawks can only carry on investigating and hope justice will prevail in court.”
Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela failed to respond to a question from the M&G about the fraud investigation.