The withdrawal of fraud charges against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and Colonel Heine Barnard this week in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Pretoria has set tongues wagging in the Hawks, which are investigating alleged systemic corruption in the police’s crime intelligence division.
Hawks sources said on Wednesday that the provisional withdrawal of the charges was “sinister” and suggested that powerful people are being protected.
Mdluli and Barnard, the supply chain manager for crime intelligence’s secret services account, were charged in September with fraud and corruption linked to a R90 000 discount, allegedly solicited to pay a shortfall on Mdluli’s private car last year.
The two also faced charges of misusing or selling information or material acquired in the exercise of their official duties, abusing their positions of authority and conspiring, instructing, commanding or inducing another person to commit these offences.
The National Prosecuting Authority did not give reasons for its decision on Wednesday.
But a source close to the investigation of Mdluli and Barnard said Lawrence Mrwebi, appointed by President Jacob Zuma last month to head the specialised commercial crime unit, had signed off on the withdrawal of the charges against the two.
Media reports in November claimed that Zuma had appointed Mrwebi despite another recommendation by NPA head Menzi Simelane.
Mrwebi, a former KwaZulu-Natal Scorpions boss, testified in the corruption trial of former police national commissioner Jackie Selebi. Mrwebi defended Selebi, testifying that there was a Scorpions conspiracy against the former top cop.
In 2008 Mrwebi and advocate Nomgcobo Jiba were suspended after accusations that they were part of a conspiracy to have former Gauteng Scorpions head Gerrie Nel arrested before he could lay corruption charges against Selebi.
Spokesperson for the NPAMthunzi Mhaga was approached for comment but did not respond by the time of going to print.
Zuma appointed Jiba as a deputy national director of public prosecutions early this year.
Contrary to the Hawks’ sources, an intelligence source said the case against Mdluli was weak and that “you can’t make something that is not fraud stick in court as a fraud charge”.
In an earlier version of this story, the Mail & Guardian incorrectly indicated that we had approached advocate Lawrence Mrwebi for comment but that he had not responded by the time of going to print.
In fact, the spokesperson for the NPA Mthunzi Mhaga was approached for comment but did not respond.
No direct approach was made to Mwrebi, who, the story noted, had signed off on the withdrawal of fraud charges against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
We apologise to Mrwebi for the mistake.
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