Senior Scorpion probed

A top Scorpions official, Jeffrey Ledwaba, one of three czars heading the elite police unit, is being investigated in connection with allegations of the plundering of hundreds of thousands of rands from the informers fund.

Ledwaba was put on “special leave” last week on the instruction of the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Vusi Pikoli, who received representations from senior Scorpions who have been probing Ledwaba since last year.

Pikoli this week confirmed that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has instituted a formal probe into “the misuse or misappropriation of funds involving officials, including a senior official”. He refused to divulge the names of the implicated officials, but the Mail & Guardian has found that Ledwaba is one of several senior Scorpions implicated for misuse of the informers fund.

Ledwaba, who managed the fund as head of operations, allegedly misappropriated more than R600 000 earmarked for the payment of informants. Ledwaba is one of two deputies — the other deputy position is vacant — who report to the unit’s head, Leonard McCarthy.

McCarthy reports to Pikoli.

As operations chief, Ledwaba made key decisions on policy, spending and prosecutions and, until recently, was tipped to replace McCarthy as the top man.

The latest revelations come as a watershed judicial commission of inquiry, headed by Judge Sisi Khampepe, gets into gear. It will decide whether the Scorpions will continue as they are (a unit of the national directorate of public prosecutions) or whether they will be integrated into the police service. The unit is under enormous political pressure from within the African National Congress because of its investigation into Deputy President Jacob Zuma, Schabir Shaik and members of Parliament implicated in the Travelgate scam and the commission is likely to either make or break it.

The revelations against Ledwaba follow reports in the M&G which revealed that the CEO in Pikoli’s office, Marion Sparg, is also being probed by the Public Service Commission for tender irregularities.

Pikoli said he viewed the informer fund filching in a serious light but said he was concerned that the information had been leaked to the M&G. He warned that possession of documents related to the informer fund is illegal in terms of the National Prosecuting Authority Act.

A civil servant for the past 22 years, Ledwaba joined the Scorpions at its launch in 2001. Prior to that, he was a long-standing employee of the justice department.

As head of operations, Ledwaba is responsible for authorising all Scorpions criminal investigations. He also manages and oversees all functions relating to the Scorpions operations and would have played a key role in decisions about the most sensitive prosecutions.

The allegations against Ledwaba centre on his handling of the Scorpions “confidential fund”, which is earmarked for the unit’s covert operations, including the payment of informers.

Last year the Scorpions spent more than R4,5-million on informers, according to the NPA’s 2003/04 annual report.

Scorpions’ sources close to the investigation said Ledwaba allegedly “irregularly solicited” about R650 000 from the informer’s fund, but repaid R200 000 after investigators started asking questions.

The investigation into misuse of the “confidential fund” found that a number of Scorpions investigators had requested amounts ranging between R1 000 and R60 000 without providing the necessary documentation, one Scorpions source said.

The unit was also in the spotlight last year after the M&G revealed that one of its top investigators was being probed on allegations of bribery.

Cornwell Tshavhungwa, formerly deputy director of Public Prosecutions, was suspended from his duties and subsequently arrested by the Scorpions for allegedly accepting bribes from senior officials at the parastatal, Mpumalanga Economic Empowerment Corporation. Tshavungwa is in jail pending prosecution on charges of corruption.

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