How the Brexit financier 'turned' the Hawks general
The head of the Hawks in the Northern Cape stands accused of corruption after bedding down with Brexit financier Arron Banks and allegedly helping the British businessperson to settle scores in exchange for property financing.
According to an investigation by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News, Banks and his associate, Kobus Coetzee, offered financial gratification in the form of R20-million in property investments to General Kholekile Galawe. In exchange the general was to pursue a criminal case against their estranged business partner, Chris Kimber.
Kimber and Banks had a falling-out in 2017 that saw Kimber making several claims of criminal conduct against Banks. In a statement to the Hawks, Kimber said that Banks — who has claimed that one of the sources of his wealth is diamond mines in Lesotho and Kimberley — had a business relationship with Russia’s state diamond company, lending credence to speculation about a Russian connection to Brexit.
According to Channel 4 News, Galawe, along with his friend, businessperson Mfundiso JJ Njeke, held multiple meetings with Banks, Coetzee and a developer by the name of Kofi Kwei Smith.
At one of the meetings in September 2017, Coetzee put Galawe in touch with Banks’ office for them to arrange for Galawe, Njeke and Smith to travel to the UK.
Banks’ office assistant was also to write letters to the British High Commission in Pretoria to support their visa applications.
But the trip, which was scheduled to take place in November, fell through because Njeke had other commitments.
“Arron volunteered to fund the application of the visa. It is not correct to say that the trip was going to be paid for by Arron. Yes to be paid for by us, privately,” said Galawe in his response to questions on this aspect.
At the time Banks had already made it clear to Galawe that he wanted an investigation into Kimber.
In terms of South African Police Services’ rules, for Galawe to travel overseas on a working trip, he would have had to get permission from the police minister and the trip had to be organised through Interpol.
It also emerged that Banks and Coetzee were in talks about “buying an interest” in Banks’ call centre, Outworx in Durban.
“At some stage he [Galawe] had been talking to Mr Banks about buying an interest in his call centre business in South Africa,” said Njeke. “Also assisting him in other business ventures, including an interest in cement and things like that. But I don’t know if they ultimately made any investments together.”
Galawe visited the call centre on two occasions.
“Now what happened is that after having informed them, that remember in terms of my employment contract, I am due to leave at the age of 60 [he was 54 at the time]. And then out of that, there was a discussion to say: ‘What do you plan to do?’ I told them, that no, my line of interest in business is more to property development,” Galawe said of his dealings with Banks.
According to Channel 4, Galawe sought “working capital” for two big developments in Bay Ridge in Port Elizabeth and Mthatha Cosmo in Mthatha.
Smith said: “The proposal was to the general ... was to then discuss it with Arron. I think that discussion did happen. Hence it ended up being recommended that we take a trip down to see Arron in the UK ... I know that general discussed it with Arron.”
According to Channel 4, just four weeks after Galawe was offered the trip to the UK, on October 12 2017, he met Banks and Njeke at OR Tambo International Airport, where Banks signed and handed over an affidavit containing allegations against Kimber. The affidavit was witnessed and signed by Njeke.
“I only met Arron Banks once,” said Njeke. “He came through from immigration and I was with Gen Galawe so we met him ... I met the both of them at the airport. It was the day he deposed the affidavit … This affidavit, as far as I know, it was organised by General Galawe.”
Galawe responded to Channel 4 News accusing it of trying to fabricate facts.
“You cannot change the truth that when my interactions started with Mr Banks there were no allegations against him in South Africa. You must also check your facts regarding the affidavit that was signed by JJ. Mr Banks had already opened his case in Pretoria at that time as per Serious Economic Offences Unit Enquiry 2/9/2017 which was converted to a fully fledged docket in December. My office was never involved in any investigation regarding his case or Mr Kimber. The facts are there but you create an impression that they were submitted to my office despite my insistence that this is not true,” Galawe said.
“You may fabricate the story regarding my discussions with Mr Banks but the facts are not going to change. I have not contravened any law in SA or the Code of Conduct of the SA Police Service”.
Galawe confirmed the airport meeting with Banks, telling the news channel: “Mr Banks landed from a flight carrying that affidavit. It was on a Saturday morning. He landed at the airport . He was carrying that affidavit by hand, and was with this guy Kobus Coetzee. I never drafted any affidavit. I don’t even know the contents of that affidavit he brought me except what he explained.
“Then from there he had asked me to get this guy to assist him. He wanted any person by the way. As the commissioner, I cannot commission that affidavit … and I said it would not be appropriate of me to be commissioning that affidavit. And I had to ask my friend, who is also a committed person, to do so.
“It’s not that I was facilitating it because I wanted to assist this guy for my personal interest, that’s not true,” said Galawe.
The Hawks opened a case in Kimberley in December 2017 and Kimber was investigated.
In terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Activities Act, both Galawe and Banks could be charged with corruption because their proposed transactions amount to gratification for each other’s benefits.
This article was updated on March 12 2019 to reflect comments made to Channel 4 News by General Kholekile Galawe following the publication of this article on March 6 2019.