South Africa

Prison Break: 9 government officials arrested in swoop on corruption syndicate

By Orateng Lepodise 19 March 2018

The backbone of a corruption syndicate involving officials from the departments of home affairs and correctional services – that saw at least 36 parolees released for financial gain and without the proper procedures being followed – has been cracked following an early morning raid. By ORATENG LEPODISE.

For between R3000 and R6000, drug smugglers due to be released on parole have been able to bribe their way out of jail earlier and without subjecting themselves to normal parole procedures.

On Monday, a briefing by the Criminal Justice Cluster revealed that members of the anti-corruption investigation teams from the departments of Home Affairs and Correctional Services (DCS), led by the police’s Crime Intelligence Unit, arrested nine out of 11 government officials on charges related to corruption.

The arrests follow early morning raids in Soweto and Johannesburg on Friday.

The officials were allegedly involved in illegally releasing about 36 parolees, all of whom were women from Johannesburg Women’s Prison – without following proper procedures. Most of the parolees were drug smugglers from other countries. It emerged that South African officials were paid in cash or into their bank accounts from the parolees’ families or friends. At times, the officials would demand bribes of between R3000 for those from African countries and R6000 for those from outside Africa, particularly South America.

Correctional service officials would provide the parolees with fraudulent parole documents; which enabled the suspects from Home Affairs to create false release documents to assist inmates to flee South Africa or remain in the country.

Normal processes would have seen parolees released and deported to their country of origin through the Lindela deportation centre; however, through the work of the syndicate, they were sent directly from Johannesburg department of home affairs regional offices for an unprocedural and illegal early release.

Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, explained that being released in this manner meant parolees would be free to do as they please, they would not need to report to the authorities of their country of origin and some would continue with their smuggling activities.

Some of the illegally released parolees and ex-convicts left South Africa through their own expenses and travel arrangements. Some remained in South Africa, of which six of them have been rearrested. It emerged that these six had no intention of leaving South Africa,” said Cele.

Initially 26 officials were suspected to be involved in the syndicate but a decision was taken to indict 11 of them given the amount of evidence against them.

Nine officials were detained at Johannesburg central. A 10th official is still being sought while the 11th was killed in a motor vehicle crash in February.

They face charges of corruption and aiding and abetting.

The specialised team of detectives worked tirelessly in cracking the backbone of a complicated web of corrupt activities,” Cele said, adding that to prevent a recurrence in future, an integrated approach involving all relevant departments to ensure proper processes and procedures are adhered to will be adopted.

We would like to send a strong message to everyone that we are indeed serious about rooting out corruption inside and outside our ranks,” said Michael Masutha, minister of justice and correctional services. DM

Note: The original headline on this article was amended for accuracy.

Photo: New Police Minister Bheki Cele (REUTERS)

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