South Africa

amaBhungane: The Smuggler, The Spook and The Grabber

By amaBhungane 27 August 2016

A Hawks sting operation to nab the importers of a high tech bugging device might have landed more than the detectives bargained for. Did they catch masterminds planning to use the ultra-sophisticated Israeli listening device for their own nefarious purposes? Or did they stumble on an off-the-books spying operation that must now be denied and defused? AMABHUNGANE’s SAM SOLE and SALLY EVANS lead you through the smoke and mirrors.   

On September 9 an odd couple is scheduled to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court. In the dock will be Willie Lotter and Joseph Pooe.

They are accused of being the key players behind the illegal importation of what is called a Verint Engage PI2 Tactical Location System.

A spying machine on steroids, the Israeli device has the capability to simultaneously intercept and record hundreds of phone calls and SMSs without leaving a trace.

It is a useful tool if you are a criminal mastermind staying ahead of cops and rivals – or an undercover spook, seeking advantage for your political masters via the most clandestine and deniable of means.

Neither Lotter nor Pooe appear, at first glance, to fit either bill.

Lotter is an ageing Mpumalanga farmer, now battling cancer – and Pooe is an obscure official in the department of public service and administration.

But neither is quite what he seems.

The “Smuggler”

Willie Lotter is rumoured to have operated on the fringes of the intelligence world since the apartheid era.

In 1995 he was implicated in a massive gold smuggling racket that also allegedly involved persons working at a high level with the ANC. Charges were provisionally withdrawn against Lotter and the case died.

In 2010, he was part of a consortium lined up to benefit from the exploitation of Marange diamonds in Zimbabwe, but he appeared to fall foul of mines minister Obert Mpofu and ended up being sidelined.

More recently, in July 2013, Lotter became co-director in a company with a former ANC and National Intelligence Agency spy, Thabo Kubu, who the Mail & Guardian reported in 2015 had been drafted in by the ANC to help with a party vetting programme called Project Veritas.

Kubu appears to retain close links to the State Security Agency (SSA).

Their company, The Marketing Box, included another figure well known to the intelligence agencies, Henry “Peerie” Spangenberg, a tobacco trader.

Spangenberg could not be reached for comment, but the significance of this association will emerge more clearly as we go deeper into the hall of mirrors.

The “Spook”

Pooe’s links with the intelligence community are clearer still.

“I was always a spook, from my time in exile,” he told the Sunday Times recently – and the available evidence suggests this was no idle boast.

Pooe, now 57, went into exile in 1983 and joined the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), using the nom de guerre Tolly Nkunda. He apparently received training in Russia and worked for ANC intelligence. He also taught at the famous Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College.

That pedigree is supported by other evidence: between 2003 and 2005, Pooe served on the board of the MK Military Veterans Association and his Facebook friends include retired spy boss Manala Manzini, just-resigned SSA director general Gladys Sonto Kudjoe and former intelligence minister Siyabonga Cwele.

On returning to South Africa in 1994, Pooe was deployed into the military police, before transferring to the department of public service and administration (DPSA), where he joined the special anti-corruption unit, as well as being responsible for “information security”.

Pooe told amaBhungane: “There was a time minister [Nathi] Nhleko was my boss. I had a team from the security cluster to help in investigation.”

Like so many other assertions around this case, this is partly true, but potentially misleading – and Pooe himself is both skittish and cryptic in response to questions.

Nhleko, the current minister of police, was the head of the DPSA special anti-corruption unit after its formation in 2010 until his deployment as director general of labour in 2011.

While the SSA has disavowed Pooe and police and prosecutors have declined to comment on a live court case, Pooe’s demonstrable proximity to persons of interest is suggestive: his Facebook photo shows him sitting chatting man-to-man with President Jacob Zuma in a picture dated just days before the highly contested Mangaung ANC leadership vote.

Was Pooe a Zuma asset? And, if so, how did he end up in the dock?

The best approximation of an answer is to be found in the evidence contained in the case docket, which tells the incredible story of how the fabled “grabber” was procured, installed in a Mercedes Viano van to make it mobile, tested – and then hawked around until it was unwittingly sold to an undercover policeman on July 31, 2015.

If the prosecution is to be believed there are a number of very gullible businessmen, international security contractors and intelligence agencies out there.

The incredible Mr Cronje

Our story starts, appropriately, on April Fool’s Day, 2013, when a successful Welkom businessman, one Johannes Cronje, is introduced to Pooe at his office at the DPSA in Pretoria. Lotter was also present.

Cronje appears to be a canny operator: he has made a small fortune delivering road repair, construction services and plant hire, notably to government clients in the Free State.

Yet the prosecution wants the court to believe he was bamboozled to agreeing to advance about R15-million to finance the acquisition of the grabber for the benefit of “National Security”.

Cronje faced potential charges alongside Pooe and Lotter, but he and a business associate, one Botha Barnard, have become state witnesses.

In an affidavit prepared by his attorneys Barnard explains: “The arrangement was that National Security will reimburse the funder in respect of the funds advanced, over a period of time. I introduced Cronje and Pooe for this purpose.”

Barnard does not explain how he knew Pooe or why he believed him to be a member of the official intelligence structures.

Neither Barnard nor Cronje were prepared to comment for this article, citing their status as state witnesses, but an affidavit by Cronje included in the docket suggests that Pooe was able to demonstrate his clout.

The deal

Pooe must have been convincing – or he, Barnard and Lotter must have offered inducements not mentioned in the affidavit, because Pooe’s proposition, Cronje admits, “left me speechless, to say the least”.

“Pooe told me at that meeting he received instructions from high authority to acquire an interception device which is capable of intercepting telephone conversations,” Cronje avers.

This interception device was to be acquired from an Israeli company called Verint, which had a branch office in South Africa. Pooe had already met with the representatives of Verint in Israel in order to negotiate the intended transaction, Cronje was told.

“National Intelligence” required a funder to front for the purchase of the interception device, so the story went, because otherwise the acquisition would become “public knowledge”.

The interception device had to be installed in a motor vehicle that would fit in a VIP entourage, like a BMW X5. The required funding for the device, a vehicle and training operators would be in the region of R10-million.

The funder, using his own operators, would be required to operate the device “in accordance with the instructions of National Intelligence” and would then be paid about R2-million per month until the funded amount had been repaid.

Cronje, a former stock-car racing champion, has shown no previous evidence of being gormless. Indeed, his various companies have negotiated many tight corners in the cut-throat world of civil tenders, as a slew of court cases show.

But his lawyers are now asking the court to believe that Cronje was prepared to stump up millions on the basis of this unlikely version of Pooe’s assurances.

In his affidavit, Cronje says he agreed to the deal with two provisos: that he be allowed to accompany Pooe to Israel in order to meet with the representatives of Verint to satisfy himself that the transaction was legitimate; and that he retain possession of the grabber until he was fully reimbursed by “National Intelligence”.

The trip to Israel

Some evidence suggesting Pooe was more than a lowly security official emerges from Cronje’s account of their Israeli caper. Cronje notes that Pooe was in possession of a maroon (diplomatic) passport and did not queue with him to go through passport control at OR Tambo in March 2014.

He continues:

“On our arrival at the Tel Aviv Airport in Israel and prior to us passing through customs, we were met by two unknown men dressed in black suits. One of these men took our passports and the other requested us to follow him through a different exit than the exit used by ordinary passengers.

“We were led to a vehicle without going through any form of customs or border control.”

“We were collected from the hotel by representatives of Verint who transported us to Verint’s offices where I met a certain Mr Sam Rabin of Verint Israel and Mr Craig Alexander who was introduced to me as Verint’s agent in South Africa.”

Alexander is the chief executive of the agent company, Lightning Bird Logistics, of which more later.

Cronje describes how he and Pooe got the full tour:

“We were also taken to an underground hall, some four stories underground, filled with huge computers literally the size of double door fridges and told that these computers capture, record and store all the activities of interception devices sold by Verint.”

Notably, he asserts that Verint made it clear that the intended transaction would be subjected to the requirement that an “end user certificate” be issued by South Africa and that “the intelligence departments of the United States of America and Russia” would have to give approval for the intended transaction.

A stamp of approval

Meanwhile, Pooe had already obliged with an “end user certificate”: a transparently amateur effort pasted onto a DPSA letterhead and signed by Pooe with a stamp proclaiming “Public Service and Administration SECURITY”.

One might have expected Verint – and certainly its SA representative – to know the legal restrictions on such equipment in SA, which make it clear that possession of interception equipment is prohibited, unless an exemption certificate is issued by the minister of justice.

Pooe also provided a personally signed assurance to Alexander, Verint’s local representative, noting that the equipment would not be resold or transferred without the “prior written approval of the Government of Israel”.

Amazingly, according to the version put forward in the docket, Pooe and his letterhead appeared to be enough to satisfy the super-spooks at Verint (presumably with the Government of Israel looking over their shoulders) and the intelligence departments of the USA and Russia.

Accordingly, in July 2014, Cronje, collected a crate from a logistics company in Jet Park, Johannesburg and the grabber was installed in a Mercedes Viano purchased by Cronje — after the BMW X5 he had also paid for proved to have too small a boot to accommodate the machine and its control suite. 

So far so good, but was what was the grabber for? What was Pooe up to – and on whose behalf?

Shortly after his first meeting with Cronje in April 2013, Pooe purported to sign a slew of “investigation contracts” on behalf of the DPSA, though, according to later evidence by the department’s director general, he was in no way entitled to do this.

The contracts are nothing if not exotic: one appears to link to a longstanding obsession of the intelligence services, namely creating a front company to penetrate the illicit tobacco trade (to which we’ll return); another to the search for “Gaddafi’s gold”.   

The Libyan loot

One document signed by Pooe nominated a company called Poviwize as an official partner in the search for the missing billions supposedly squirreled away by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

On August 7, 2013 Pooe signed a memo, marked “Top Secret”, in which he proclaimed:

“The department of public service and administration (DPSA) in partnership with other strategic stakeholders in government hereby confirms its recognition of Poviwize … to partner in the investigation, identification and the resolution of the alleged assets held in South Africa belonging to the government of Libya.”

At the time it was already public knowledge that two competing delegations had been travelling to South Africa, claiming to represent the fractured post-Gaddafi Libyan government to find and recover Libyan assets.

The directors of Poviwize included Erik Goaied, a Tunisian middleman and leader of one of the business factions, who the United Nations has accused of peddling fake documents in an effort to stake a claim to the missing billions.

Last year the Daily Beast reported UN investigators saying that a representative of Poviwize unsuccessfully approached the United Kingdom home office, claiming the company was authorized to deal with Libyan funds inside the UK.

So was Pooe part of a giant con?

Once again his ability to leverage high-level intelligence contacts casts doubt on that explanation.

AmaBhungane has previously reported that Goaied, who included both Lotter and Pooe in his circle of contacts, was able to set up a face to face meeting with SSA head of operations Inzo Ismail, a person whose very existence is not widely known. 

Even following his arrest Pooe seemed confident enough publicly to proclaim an official slant to his involvement in the Libyan initiative.

He told amaBhungane: 

“Please be aware that the project on Poviwise was closed some time ago. I wrote my report and recommended possible remedies to Libyan assets and money laundering… To discuss the matter further, I need the mandate from those who authorised my initial participation.”

And the docket discloses further intriguing details of Pooe’s “mandate”.

“To serve the sitting president”

Cronje’s affidavit attaches several email chains from Pooe including a note dispatched to Sam Rabin at Verint and copied to Alexander of Lightning Bird Logistics on June 30, 2014, where Pooe wrote:

“Maybe let me remind you why there was need for the system. It was to serve the sitting president and the ruling party. It was to help us to make decision as we collect information to better governance.

“The project took some time mostly for security reasons; we had critical events not be taken care of because we did not have an appropriate sponsor.

“When the agency met with the president, we were clear of what we need. The president even emphasized intelligence and relationship between the two countries”.

Even after his July 2015 arrest and after the grabber was confiscated, Pooe did not let his guard drop. In November 2015, after Verint’s lawyers had sent a letter to the DPSA director general demanding that the department pay outstanding money on the grabber, Pooe wrote back to Sam Rabin castigating him.

“Dear Sam… please be aware that my department received a letter from your lawyers that the department is owing them. Around R1.5m. I don’t remember anywhere in our conversation or contract we mentioned overt operations…

“I asked Craig immediately after the machine was taken [by the Hawks] and he answered as if he was not aware of the developments. I had to deploy my people and they told me everything. If I did not act, most of my team including generals could have been arrested…

“I think Sam you still remember what was agreed upon with the agency when we started negotiating. It was intelligence and building relationship between the two countries. You must be aware of the developments between Israel and Hamas where the initiative started during my visits.”

Verification

If ever Verint might have had doubts as to whether, in Pooe, they were really dealing with someone with a mandate from the top, the company would not have far to go to make the necessary inquiries.

Their South African agency, Lightning Bird, has a sister company in which one Fumanekile Gqiba is the sole co-director with their man on the ground, Alexander.

Gqiba is well connected – and well known to the Israelis.

A former MK commander, he joined the SA National Defence Force as a chaplain following integration in 1994. He rose to become chaplain general, with the rank of major general, before being appointed South African ambassador to Israel in 2004. He served until 2008, gaining Israeli favour for promoting SA trade with Israel, including, controversially, in military and security equipment.

He now serves as the head of the National Rural Youth Service Corps (Narysec), college in Thaba Nchu.

The corps is a little-known partnership between the department of rural development and land reform and the SANDF to give youth volunteers “character building and vocational skills” and includes a ten-week course of “military drills and exercises”.

Sounds suspiciously like the pilot project for a youth brigade, but we digress.

Back to…

The tobacco scheme

As with the case of the Gaddafi billions, when we retrace Pooe’s steps, they seem to touch too many nodes of official personnel or policy, albeit covert, to mark the journey of a fraud.

Once again the investigation docket is our guide.

Conveniently, when police arrested the old smuggler, Willy Lotter, they found in his car a document titled, “Crime Prevention Operational Plan”.

It appears to be a blueprint for a covert tobacco “project” that is breathtaking in its audacity. 

The document proposes the formation of a government sponsored “crime prevention company” that would fight tobacco smuggling by “out-smuggling the smugglers”, undercutting their prices and taking away their business:

“If they sell for R50 per carton, we’ll sell for R45,” it boasts.

Somehow, on this basis, the number of master-cases of illicit cigarettes entering the country could supposedly be managed down from an estimated 100,000 to a mere 10,000, when “CPC [Crime Prevention Company] will pull the plug… leaving duty paid stock only.”

The notion of using a Trojan horse to infiltrate or undermine the enemy is as old as intelligence itself. For instance, if you want to penetrate the right wing, you set up a right wing organization that you secretly control. There is some evidence that the Afrikaner Weerstands Beweging (AWB) was such a beast.

But such operations can also be the perfect cover for rogue intelligence projects that escape oversight and offer the promise of both personal enrichment and the creation of a “black fund” for other off-the-books projects.

Despite its amateur economics, the Lotter document had a serious pedigree, which emerges both from the case docket and other material obtained by amaBhungane.

Lotter sings a little

To start with, his arrest made Lotter talkative.

According to an affidavit by the arresting officer, Colonel Herbie Heap, Lotter informed him how he had been involved with many operations both in South Africa and in Zimbabwe relating to gold and tobacco smuggling into South Africa.

“He informed me that they had written a project and had presented it to General Tshika of crime intelligence as well as Adv Gerrie Nel from the National Prosecuting Authority for approval. Both had told them that such actions that they proposed, i.e. the listening to and monitoring of alleged criminals’ conversations without the necessary authorization … was illegal. He and his friends had then decided to sell the equipment to recoup their money that they had spent on obtaining it. They found a possible buyer and had interacted with him until now when they had been arrested.”

Lotter provided a similar account to Colonel André van Heerden of the Hawks Crimes Against the State unit, who took initial control of the investigation.

Van Heerden reported in his own affidavit that Lotter said the grabber was to be used to counter cigarette smuggling. Lotter also told him that they had approached a certain “Botes” from the Hawks to assist them.

Van Heerden contacted Botes, who confirmed part of the story. In his own affidavit, Botes says he received an email from Pooe in mid-September 2013.

Reconnaissance

Pooe asked for assistance with a “reconnaissance operation” involving illegal smuggling, police and customs corruption. Botes informed his superiors about the request and they told him to follow it up.

Botes travelled to Musina, where he met Peerie Spangenberg and others involved in the “operation”.

It will be recalled that, a month earlier, Spangenberg, Lotter and ANC intelligence operative Thabo Kubu had formed a company called “The Marketing Box”. The docket reveals that this entity was one of those that signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Pooe, representing the DPSA.

Botes said the plan involved confiscating a truck that was expected to enter the country with illegal cigarettes, but he discovered there was no legal authorization for the operation. The truck never arrived and all returned to Pretoria, where Botes again reported back to his bosses.

Botes said he had demanded to see the project authorisation and during October 2013 he had received two documents, one describing the tobacco project, which was authorized, and one to do with gold smuggling, which was not.

Botes does not disclose who authorised this project, but he took the documents to the prosecuting authority’s Nel for advice.

Nel told him the projects were not legally sanctioned and neither the police nor the prosecution service could be involved. Botes said he informed his superiors as well as Lotter and his associates and terminated his involvement.

The “Mata Hari” of Hatfield

Spangenberg’s appearance harks back to an earlier, more sophisticated version of the tobacco project that involved him and at least three agents or former agents of the SSA, including Belinda Walter.

Walter is the Pretoria attorney whose love affair with former South African Revenue Service investigations executive Johann van Loggerenberg exposed her as an agent of the SSA who, on the instruction of her handlers, wore a wire to her first meeting with van Loggerenberg.

It was Walter’s 2014 fallout with van Loggerenberg and her subsequent allegations against him that provided the crowbar to rip apart the SARS executive team put in place by former commissioner Pravin Gordhan – and the independent investigative capacity built up under van Loggerenberg.

The shockwaves from those events are still rippling through SARS and the intelligence community.

It was Walter who was key to the initial exposure of the close working relationship between the SSA, the Hawks and British American Tobacco (BAT), via Forensic Security Services (FSS), BAT’s private intelligence partner in South Africa which is currently having its secrets spilled all over the internet courtesy of a former employee.     

Project Robin

But in late 2011 Walter was still ensconced as a covert SSA agent. Outwardly, she represented clients such as cheap cigarette manufacturer Carnilinx and Tribert Ayabatwa, the exiled Rwandan businessman who is one of Africa’s biggest tobacco barons. Secretly, she reported to the SSA, and later directly to BAT and FSS.

In August 2011, communication records seen by amaBhungane show Walter was engaged, together with the former SSA acting head of commercial intelligence Ferdie Fryer and another former SSA agent, Graham Minnaar, in planning to set up a cigarette company, to be backed by a “sponsor”.

In much the same way as Cronje was to pay for the grabber, in this plan, Ayabatwa, who was close to Minnaar, would be persuaded to serve as “sponsor”.

It was called “Project Robin” and appears to have enjoyed the tacit blessing of SSA. At the very least the SSA was aware, via Walter, of every move. 

She told her handler: “F [Fryer] still wants the sponsor to go the legal route backed with covert structure.”

Spangenberg was to be in charge of marketing.

But in November 2011 Minnaar circulated an email delaying the go-ahead. He cited concerns over SARS’ new plans for a scanning system to regulate the tobacco industry, but he also raised trust issues within the group.

“This is a very sensitive project, in a highly volatile and risky environment, with many potential adversaries who will aggressively protect their interests. If the shit hit the fan at some point down the road and we are under pressure, we will need to be a very tight-knit team with unquestioning loyalty and trust between us. I honestly do not believe this is the case at this stage.”

Enter Agliotti

Given that, two years later, Pooe, Lotter and Spangenberg emerged with a similar if cruder venture, one must ask whether the same play was being mounted with a slightly different cast – and who was the director behind the scenes?

Enter the inimitable Glenn Agliotti – smuggler, survivor, friend to police commissioners and tycoons – to offer a view of the action from another angle.

In about April 2014 Agliotti had a meeting with two cigarette traders in trouble with SARS. A recording of the meeting reached SARS and, in turn, a transcript of the meeting leaked to the media.

According to the transcript, aside from offering to sort out their problems with SARS, Agliotti allegedly offered them a chance to be part of a state-sponsored smuggling operation.

The transcript reads:

“There is a second phase. Where we can make money together. The government has asked me to run a smuggling operation with … to fuck up smuggling in this country. You know what the Chinese do. Peter Stuyvesant … flood the market. From Zuma’s office there is a team in place. I will appear nowhere because I know the game…

“Get the product and we will run it. I will give you all the protection in writing. There are two operations running in this country at the moment. One against smuggling of cigarettes and one is about gold at Rand Refinery…

“If you want to do any of this you will have to turn it upside down. I don’t go into this shit if I am not protected. I said it to them straight. I got Zuma from being arrested. You want me to do this. Because they know I am a gangster. Who can they go to and approach to run an operation like this?”

The Citizen quotes Agliotti as denying having said anything of the sort, but the transcript is filled with Agliotti bon mots that are virtually unfakeable.

A small example:

“I’ve been through it. I don’t give a fuck. I will walk with you. People either love me or they hate me. I’m passed that. People come to me and ask me for autograph. People think I’m Ray McCaully. I’ve blessed more fucking people than anything else.”

Coincidentally, after his arrest, Lotter also told Colonel van Heerden that he “had previously had dealings with Agliotti over gold”.

Special Operations

So where does all this leave Pooe and Lotter and the grabber?

City Press has been at the forefront of tracing the few visible contours of covert intelligence in the Zuma era, and in their 2014 report on the matter they purported to link Agliotti’s initiative to a shadowy arm of the SSA, tagged the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

At the time the grabber affair began, the general manager: special operations for the SSA was a man named Thulani Dhlomo.

His appointment in 2012 was controversial because at the time he was still the subject of an investigation into allegations he had solicited a R1-million bribe while he was head of security at the KwaZulu Natal department of social development.

That investigation appears to have gone nowhere.

A subsequent probe by the inspector general of intelligence found nothing wrong with Dhlomo’s appointment, though he had been “head-hunted”. It is also understood the probe revealed that he had been granted a top secret security clearance while he was still an obscure provincial official.

A 2012 report alleged he had ruffled feathers at the SSA by telling colleagues he “only reports to Zuma”.

Earlier this year, City Press added important detail with the revelation that an apartheid-era spy named Riaan Stander alleged in court papers that Dhlomo told him that he represented Zuma’s interests and in 2012 contracted Stander to investigate issues around the arms deal.

One former senior spy told amaBhungane:

“I know Pooe. I’m telling you he’s part of Dhlomo’s network; one of Zuma’s parallel intelligence structures.”

Pooe was certainly known to some of those fingered as being contract agents for the SSA, including, for instance, George Darmanovich – a veteran of the apartheid-era shadows – who arranged the meeting between the SSA’s Inzo Ismail and Libyan bounty hunter Erik Goaeid.

Darmanovich has previously denied being linked to Special Operations, but various reports and records show he was clearly part of the Libyan initiative.

There are other indications of Pooe’s clout. According to one source close to the events a senior manager in the SSA became aware of Pooe activities and wanted him charged, but was blocked. The same source claimed Pooe was “spying on No 2”, understood to be Cyril Ramaphosa. The manager was one of those suddenly transferred to the foreign service in September 2014.

Pooe has gone to ground, but the manner of his exposure and arrest suggests he’s now more pawn than protagonist.

The sting in the tale

What is not clear is why, having set up the elaborate charade with Johan Cronje (the benefactor from Welkom) the operation was collapsed.

Cronje attempts to explain in his affidavit:

“As previously stated, the operation of the device on the instructions of National Intelligence against payment was the vehicle created for the repayment of the advanced funding.

“No such instructions were forthcoming and I became increasingly agitated for being out of pocket … to the extent that I resolved to dispose of the device in order to recover my losses. I informed Pooe of my intentions.

“Barnard and Lotter informed me around the middle of 2015 that they have secured a prospective buyer and that I should arrange a demonstration with LBL [Lightning Bird Logistics].”

“The first demonstration for a prospective state department buyer was arranged to be held at a residence in Kempton Park, owned by an entity under my control during the latter part of July 2015.

“Barnard, Lotter… and I attended the demonstration… A certain Victor Mpanza who introduced himself as ‘Barney’ attended the demonstration on behalf of the prospective buyer.

“I telephonically contacted Pooe on my way to the demonstration in order to ascertain whether Pooe was aware of the demonstration.

“Pooe told me that he was in Russia and that he was unhappy with the demonstration.

“Barnard and Lotter confronted me on my arrival at the demonstration as to why I contacted Pooe. It was clear to me that Pooe contacted them after my discussion with Pooe.”

Pooe was right to be suspicious. It emerges from a police affidavit that Mpanza was an informant, introduced to the police as an “agent” of “national intelligence”.

Mpanza – and a last word from Pooe

Mpanza, who could not be contacted, closes the circle in a neat way.

Other documents seen by amaBhungane suggest he is an associate of Darmanovich.

And on 20 May 2015, just weeks before engaging in the grabber sting, he joined a company in which former crime-intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego is a co-director.

Was Mpanza engaged in a legitimate take down of a bunch of hapless rogues? Or was he drafted in to help clean up the mess of a more formal but off-books operation?

Pooe, before he went quiet on us, had this to say:

“What I have learned is that criminals are multi talented. Same people in drugs, cigarettes, diamonds, gold, human trafficking, money laundering etc.

“Check Aglioti and his relationship with informant and Mphego. Willie [Lotter] was known to informant for years and now they think that they can distract me. Old system in operations and pity our people are being lied to and they fall for [the] trap.

“War against crimes I mentioned will never be won because these criminals know how to multiply themselves in sensitive clusters. SA is a joke and I am afraid Libya will be nothing compared to what is coming.

“When I accepted head of investigation I knew of challenges I would be facing and I armed myself with IT. Jackie Selebi did not listen and he became a statistic.”

Pooe, typically, offers as much confusion as illumination.

Will matters become clearer when they get to trial… if they get to trial?

We doubt it. DM

Photo by Kendra via Flickr.

This story was provided by:

We are an independent, non-profit investigative journalism centre. Like this story? Be an amaB supporter. Sign up for our newsletter. Visit us at amaBhungane.co.za.

Gallery

Watch Pauli van Wyk’s Cat Play The Piano Here!

No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.

Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.

It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.

But our job is not yet done. We need more readers to become Maverick Insiders, the friends who will help ensure that many more investigations will come. Contributions go directly towards growing our editorial team and ensuring that Daily Maverick and Scorpio have a sustainable future. We can’t rely on advertising and don't want to restrict access to only those who can afford a paywall subscription. Membership is about more than just contributing financially – it is about how we Defend Truth, together.

So, if you feel so inclined, and would like a way to support the cause, please join our community of Maverick Insiders.... you could view it as the opposite of a sin tax. And if you are already Maverick Insider, tell your mother, call a friend, whisper to your loved one, shout at your boss, write to a stranger, announce it on your social network. The battle for the future of South Africa is on, and you can be part of it.


Comments

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.

Days of Zondo

Cuffed with cable ties: Payback for Johan Booysen’s dogged pursuance of high-profile cases

By Jessica Bezuidenhout

King Tutankhamun's ceremonial dagger is forged from meteorites.