18 May 2024 | 05:49 PM

Court orders cops to return Paul O’Sullivan’s seized files

Key Takeaways

The Johannesburg high court has ordered the South African Police Service to return the electronic equipment it seized during a raid yesterday on the offices of forensic investigator, Paul O’Sullivan.

The order, made late yesterday, requires that the police returned the equipment by 3pm today.

It followed an urgent application brought by O’Sullivan to interdict the police from accessing any information held in his two computers, three cellphones and “about half a dozen flash sticks”, all taken during the raid.

The court also made an order that one electronic copy of the data held on the equipment could be made but that this copy must be placed in a sealed bag and kept with the court registrar.

The registrar will keep the sealed bag pending the outcome of an application O’Sullivan plans to launch next week to have the search warrant set aside.

The alleged basis for the raid, which was carried out by about 30 police officers from the National Investigating Unit, follows a complaint lodged in Durban by the chairperson of the SAA, Dudu Myeni.

Documents were fraudulent

The complaint stems from O’Sullivan’s alleged involvement in February in distributing documents that turned out to be fake.

They supposedly showed that Myeni had several foreign bank accounts that held a total of €18.5-million in them.

It was claimed that this money was given to Myeni in exchange for favourable deals for various companies.

O’Sullivan reportedly called on Myeni to resign her SAA position. This backfired when it was established that the documents, distributed to senior police and journalists, were fraudulent.

Myeni apparently rejected O’Sullivan’s subsequent apology and offer of financial compensation.

In a statement yesterday, police spokesperson Solomon Makgale said the raid was carried out as part of police investigations into O’Sullivan and others for “possibly contravening the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act, Act 36 of 2005”.

Makgale added: “During the search this morning, the team confiscated electronic equipment which we believe will be of great assistance to the investigating team in their endeavour to locate the origin of the falsified documentation.”

He has since been quoted as saying that arrests would follow if the police established that a “crime was committed”.

Warrant disguised as a ‘fishing expedition’

O’Sullivan, famous for his role in bringing down former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, has objected that the search warrant was a “fishing expedition” driven from the office of national police commissioner Riah Phiyega.

AmaBhungane understands that the warrant was thin on detail, although it did apparently specify that police could search and seize “any document bearing the SAPS logo or emblem”.

Over the past few months, O’Sullivan has written several provocative emails to Phiyega and to the deputy commissioner and the head of detectives, General Vinesh Moonoo, in which he has made various accusations and demands.

“The country is burning and yet Phiyega, because I write emails calling for her dismissal, [has] my office raided by 30 people. This attack on me is nothing more than her re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The ship has already hit the iceberg and it is going down,” O’Sullivan said.

The investigation falls within Moonoo’s jurisdiction.

Mogale City official also targeted

Phiyega established the National Investigating Unit in 2013 to investigate “blue light” robberies, cases of criminals following travellers from the airport, and other priority crimes, according to the police website.

O’Sullivan’s office was not the only one raided in relation to the fake documents.

That of Abe Mbulawa, Mogale City’s chief operating officer, was also reportedly targeted by police yesterday in connection with his alleged involvement in creating bank statements.

Mbulawa purportedly acted as a middleman in retrieving the documents from “security sources”. He is also alleged to have received R150000 from suspended SAA chief executive Monwabisi Kalawe.

Kalawe, who accused Myeni of corruption, has reportedly claimed that he passed the documents on to O’Sullivan for him to authenticate.

After it emerged that the documents were fraudulent, O’Sullivan lodged a complaint of forgery and fraud against Mbulawa.

Attempts to reach Makgale for further comment were unsuccessful.

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TheM&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane)produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and fundingsources.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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