South Africa

CRIMINAL INTELLIGENCE

Richard Mdluli finally turns up in court to face slush fund corruption charges

Richard Mdluli finally turns up in court to face slush fund corruption charges
Former Crime Intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli, appeared at the high court north division Pretoria on charges of fraud, corruption and theft related to the police’s secret slush fund. (Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

Having previously failed to appear four times, jailed former Crime Intelligence chief Richard Mdluli finally turned up at the Gauteng high court in Pretoria on Friday morning where he and his co-accused face 15 counts of contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

The charges against Richard Mdluli cover gross abuse of a police intelligence slush fund. The allegations relate to private trips to Singapore and China, abuse of witness-protection houses, the leasing of Mdluli’s private residence to the state to pay his bond and the use of witness protection property for personal use.

Mdluli’s co-accused who are his former Crime Intelligence colleagues Colonel Heine Barnard, supply chain manager for the secret fund, and Major-General Solomon Lazarus, who was in charge of the Covert Intelligence Support Unit and chief financial officer of the secret fund, appeared previously while the former top cop stayed away.

Barnard faces an additional charge of defeating the ends of justice.

report in Daily Maverick describes the indictment against Mdluli as indicating “it was a friends-and-family affair down at his division, filled with travel, luxury homes, cars and clothes – all at the taxpayers’ expense”.

The case against Mdluli and his co-accused was first postponed in November after he did not show up; then again on 8 February. Medical grounds were cited for non-attendance.

On 4 March Daily Maverick reported that an arrest warrant was issued against Mdluli — who is serving a prison sentence — after his third failure to appear before the Gauteng high court in Pretoria. 

Mdluli has been behind bars since September 2020 after he and former colleague Mthembeni Mthunzi were handed five-year sentences for a crime committed more than two decades ago — the kidnapping of his customary wife Tshidi Buthelezi and her boyfriend Oupa Ramogibe in 1998.

During his last court hearing, the state and Mdluli’s co-accused said they were ready for proceedings to begin. The postponement was to give Mdluli an opportunity to consult legal representatives.

Previously, when Daily Maverick spoke to Mdluli’s legal representative, Ike Motloung, about his client’s previous failure to appear in court, he expressed his frustration at the manner in which the presiding Judge Bert Bam had handled the case.

At court on Friday, a number of lawyers turned up in court to wish Judge Bam well as it marked his last day on the bench. It’s not yet clear who will pick up the Mdluli case. 

According to court documents, on 8 February Mdluli refused to appear in court. On his behalf, the court was informed Mdluli intended, among other things, to bring an application that the state (SAPS) pay for his legal representation. He intended to apply for funding, arguing that the crimes he faces pertain to when he was still employed by the state. 

“Again, the problem of consulting in prison was cited as the reason why this was not done. The matter was postponed to 19 February to address the consultation issue. Accused 1 (Mdluli) was again requisitioned to appear in court on the day to assist with the consultation process,” the court documents stated.

Daily Maverick could not distinctly establish what reasons prevented the jailed Mdluli from appearing. During his last failed court appearance Daily Maverick reported that the reason given for Mdluli non-appearance was ill-health. 

“An abuse of the court process can never be tolerated. … Although the Bill of Rights is certainly concerned with the rights of the accused, the Constitution is also concerned with preserving the integrity of the judicial system,” read the court papers.

Mdluli’s four prior non-appearances had frustrated the administration of justice in this case. Apart from Mdluli’s legal representative, Motloung, the court also had a few words for the former top cop.

“It is respectfully submitted that the delay is unreasonable and will cause substantial prejudice to the prosecution, accused 2 and 3 or their legal advisor, the state or a witness,” said the judge.

Arguments regarding Mdluli’s legal funding will be heard on 6 April. The pre-trial conference was postponed to 18 June. DM

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