Charges against Gerrie Nel, the head of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), or the Scorpions, in Gauteng, were withdrawn in the Pretoria Regional Court on Monday
”After careful consideration of the evidence in the docket, the decision was made to withdraw the charges,” chief prosecutor Matric Lupondo said during Nel’s brief appearance.
Nel, who was dressed in a grey suit, managed to avoid the media, who were waiting outside court to get his reaction to the decision.
”We are relieved with the outcome and Mr Nel just wants to go back to work and carry out his duties at the DSO,” his legal counsel, Ian Small Smith, said.
Nel was arrested at his Pretoria home in front of his wife and children at roughly 9pm last Tuesday by about 20 armed policemen.
Although the charges were withdrawn, they could be reinstated at some stage, but Small Smith said he doubted this would happen.
”They [the police] were widely criticised after the arrest, after [which] the senior prosecutor felt there wasn’t a case, which means he should not have been arrested in the first instance, as there was not a case — so I will be very surprised if there is another arrest,” he said.
He said should the police decide to recharge Nel, they could just ask him to hand himself over instead of arresting him again.
Small Smith believes that Nel should sue the state for wrongful arrest, but says this is for Nel to decide.
”You have to understand that because of his position, there are other role-players here as well …he is a responsible person and he will act responsibly,” Small Smith said.
Outside court, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Tlali Tlali said: ”In this particular case an investigation was carried out by the South African Police Service — as a result of a lack of evidence in this matter, no case has to be answered by Mr Gerhard Nel.”
On Wednesday last week, the Democratic Alliance (DA) had said that the arrest of Nel was a witch-hunt to protect police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi.
Nel is heading the Scorpions’ case against Selebi.
”The axing of [suspended NPA head] Vusi Pikoli and now Gerrie Nel has all the appearance of a witch-hunt to protect Selebi,” said DA spokesperson on Safety and Security Dianne Kohler Barnard.
”The fact that it allegedly took 20 armed policemen to serve the warrant on Nel further reinforces this,” she said.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini had said Nel faced five charges including fraud, defeating the ends of justice and perjury.
The charges are apparently related to offences allegedly committed between 2004 and 2005.
‘Not be cuffed’
Meanwhile, Selebi’s legal team were on Monday waiting for a date for a hearing for his application to stop an investigation against him after last week’s attempt to have it heard urgently failed.
”The judge president must provide a date for a full bench,” said Selebi’s advocate, Jaap Cilliers.
Selebi stepped down from his post on Saturday and resigned as head of Interpol on Sunday.
On Friday, the Pretoria High Court did not grant Selebi’s application to have the matter heard urgently and it was struck off the roll, but the parties will arrange a date for the actual argument.
In Selebi’s notice of motion, he had wanted to ask for an interdict prohibiting the Scorpions and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development from instituting any criminal prosecution against him, or taking any further steps in any envisaged criminal prosecution.
He also wanted a copy of the allegations against him and an opportunity to answer them, to see copies of information justifying warrants of arrest issued against him, and copies of affidavits relating to him.
In court papers, the acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe said the NPA was ready to charge Selebi with corruption and defeating the course of justice.
Alleged corrupt relations with murder accused Glen Agliotti, payments to the amount of R1,2-million and turning a blind eye to drug-smuggling were some of the reasons why they wanted to charge him, the court heard.
”The charges against him are based on a strong prima facie case supported by the testimony of a range of witnesses and corroborated by real evidence,” Mpshe said.
The NPA said it would meet this week to discuss how to proceed with the case.
On Monday, Tlali said the options were either to go ahead with the Selebi matter regardless of Selebi’s outstanding application, or to wait for the court to pronounce on Selebi’s pending application.
The NPA has said it would let Selebi know when it planned to make a move.
”He will not be cuffed,” said Tlali.
Cilliers said on Monday morning that as far as he knew, Selebi had not yet received notice that he would be wanted in court. — Sapa