17 June 2024 | 01:25 PM

Firm fed toxic waste to pigs, claims government

Key Takeaways

The directors of Crimetech Laboratories, a supplier of vital chemicals to the police forensic division, have been charged with illegally dumping dangerous chemical and medical waste in two rural towns, amaBhungane has established.

Among other offences, the accused allegedly disposed material due for incineration to wild pigs and stored the schedule-six medication thalidomide, notorious for causing birth defects in humans.

Jolanta Komodolowicz and John Henry Deale, with their companies Dealetech WasteXpress and Komodealeowicz Domy, have been charged with illegally transporting, storing and disposing of hazardous waste in the North West town of Brits and Parys in the Free State.

Four other individuals – Deon Venter, Langton John Wolhuter, Hein Lategan and Sebastiaan Paul William Siebert – also face charges in the Brits case, which was postponed this week until September 17.

The alleged offences carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail or a R10-million fine on each of the 10 counts.

Fraud and tender collusion
A confidential report on the police forensic division, ordered by national commissioner Riah Phiyega, suggest that Crimetech Laboratories might have been guilty of supplying expired chemicals, as well as value added tax (VAT) fraud and tender collusion, in its dealings with the South African Police Service.

Komodolowicz and Deale denied any wrongdoing in that matter.

The dumping charges were laid after environmental management inspectors, the Green Scorpions, raided company premises in the two towns in October 2012.

Deale and Komodolowicz had both resigned as Dealetech WasteXpress directors on March 15 that year.

Among the materials allegedly discovered were Crimetech Laboratories’ chemicals and pharmaceutical products from clinics and doctors.

‘Environmentally sound’
The charge sheet says the accused contravened sections of the National Environment Management Waste Act 59 of 2008 and Section 332(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, which makes it possible to charge a company with acts or omissions of a director or employee.

It states that the accused also failed to take reasonable measures to ensure that the waste is “treated and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner”; that Komodolowicz and Deale failed to prevent an employee under their supervision from breaking the law; and that they unlawfully incinerated waste on the property.

The unlawful disposal allegedly took place on “at or near Portion 1137 of a farm 410 (in) Hartbeespoort”.

Komodolowicz declined to comment.

In its 2012-13 national environmental compliance report, the department of environmental affairs says the Green Scorpions raided the Brits and Parys sites simultaneously.

Criminal case
Contraventions uncovered allegedly included “storage and incineration of chemicals, pharmaceutical and medical waste; [and] disposal of waste destined for destruction by incineration to wild pigs held on the Brits property, and storage of medical waste including schedule-six medication such as thalidomide”.

Although Dealetech WasteXpress was ordered to stop unlawfully storing, disposing and treating the unsafe waste on both properties, the report says: “the instruction … has not been complied with fully and the noncompliances that were detected will ultimately be included in the criminal case against Dealetech WasteXpress”.

Last week two former Dealetech employees, who asked not to be named, told amaBhungane that when they enquired about the legality of the company’s waste disposal methods, they were told everything was legal and that they should not worry.

“Crimetech Laboratories had a contract not only to supply chemicals to SAPS but to remove expired chemicals from police labs and blood from crime scenes,” one said.

The source alleged that the Green Scorpions discovered two years of waste at the sites.

Further investigations
Last month, amaBhungane revealed that forensic auditors appointed by Phiyega, CPN Forensics and Accounting Services, had suggested in a confidential report that Crimetech Laboratories might have supplied the police with expired chemicals and could be guilty of tax irregularities. The report recommended the South African Revenue Service (Sars) should investigate further.

The report also suggested that Crimetech and another company of which Komodolowicz had been a director, Kriminalistik, might be guilty of tender collusion.

Komodolowicz resigned her directorship in February 2013, and was immediately replaced by her 19-year-old daughter.

Last week amaBhungane spoke to a former bookkeeper of Kriminalistik, who asked not to be named. She said she had alerted Sars about the company not being registered for VAT.

Last month Komodolowicz dismissed the allegations of possible tender collusion, saying Crimetech and Kriminalistik never tendered for the same contracts.

On the allegations of not being a registered VAT vendor, she said the company had instructed its bookkeeper to apply for VAT registration when they anticipated they would achieve R1-million turnover.

“If we filled in any documents pertaining to VAT during this time, we would state ‘pending’ and if we tendered, we would assume that we’d be VAT-registered by the time the contract was awarded, which takes six months to a year,” she said.

‘All elements can be proven’
Asked whether the revenue service is investigating, Sars spokesperson Luther Lebelo said the agency was prohibited by the Tax Administration Act from disclosing names of taxpayers under investigation or any information about taxpayers.

Department of environmental affairs spokesperson Albi Modise said the department is confident of winning the case because “it was thoroughly investigated and all elements of the crime can be proven beyond reasonable doubt”.

“The state has, however, experienced certain challenges in obtaining a Polish interpreter, as one of the accused is of Polish descent,” he said.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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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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