Durban business tycoon Thoshan Panday’s lawyer, Tashya Giyapersad, interfered in an investigation into fraud allegations against her client, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Wednesday.
Former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen told the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — that investigators on the Panday case had informed him that Giyapersad was interviewing witnesses after they had already deposed to affidavits.
Panday was being investigated by the Hawks for fraud relating to R60-million worth of contracts between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and his company Gold Coast Trading during the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The company had seemingly “drastically inflated” the cost of mattresses, blankets and accommodation procured by SAPS, Booysen said.
At the beginning of his testimony on Wednesday, Booysen said the Panday case was the beginning of the end to his “unblemished” career in the police force.
Booysen said on Wednesday that he was informed that Edward Ngwenya, the owner of Crocodile Creek — a guesthouse which regularly did business with Gold Coast Trading — had been tricked into signing a statement which negated his affidavit to the Hawks.
According to Booysen, Ngwenya had reportedly mistakenly signed the statement which he mistook as an ordinary business document.
Booysen said he confronted Giyapersad about this at a meeting that was co-ordinated by then KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni. A “heated exchange” ensued, Booysen said. Giyapersad was subsequently reported to the law society for her conduct relating to the Panday investigation.
This was not the first meeting Ngobeni had organised between Booysen and Panday’s lawyer, Booysen alleged.
Booysen recounted a similar meeting which was called by Ngobeni at her office. According to Booysen, he was introduced to Panday and Giyapersad at the meeting.
At the earlier meeting with Panday and Giyapersad, he “was peppered with questions” about the investigation, Booysen said. “I felt like I had been ambushed. That’s how I felt,” he said. Booysen added: “I just wanted to get out there.”
According to Booysen, the pair went as far to level an extortion allegation against his lead investigator, Vas Soobramoney. Booysen’s investigators were also accused of accessing bank statements irregularly.
Booysen told the commission that Panday “was going on there like he was the provincial commissioner” at the meeting, as Ngobeni failed to intervene. “Chair it was starting to become clear to me that something was amiss,” Booysen said of Ngobeni.
Ngobeni had been implicated in an independent forensic investigation report compiled by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. According to the report, Panday had paid R30 000 to throw a birthday bash for Ngobeni’s husband at Umhlanga Rocks. Ngobeni reportedly later denied this, alleging that while Panday may have done some of the party planning through one of his businesses, she had paid for it.
Booysen told the commission that prior to the meetings with Panday and his lawyer, Ngobeni had called him instructing him to halt the investigation.
But Booysen explained that Ngobeni did not have the right to tell him to stop an investigation. There is no authority in SAPS to stop an investigation, he said.
Ngobeni also allegedly called him to a meeting which was attended by police officer Navin Madhoe. A preliminary investigation report had found that Madhoe had manipulated the supply chain management system at the SAPS in KwaZulu-Natal to ensure that Gold Coast claims appeared below the spending threshold.
“It was evident to me that there was communication between the PC [provincial commissioner], Panday and Madhoe,” Booysen said.
The hearing of Booysen’s evidence continues.