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Convictions for fraud, corruption and abalone poaching — Hawks chief lists crime-busters’ recent successes

Convictions for fraud, corruption and abalone poaching — Hawks chief lists crime-busters’ recent successes
The Hawks’ national head, Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

The Hawks arrested 827 suspects who appeared before courts nationwide during the second quarter of the 2022/2023 financial year, says Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya.

Obtaining convictions in fraud, corruption and abalone poaching cases were some of the successes pointed out by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI/Hawks) during a media briefing on Tuesday. 

The Hawks’ national head, Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya, briefed the media in Tshwane, giving an update on the agency’s successes. These successes took place during the second quarter of the 2022/2023 financial year. 

Lebeya said the law enforcement agency had arrested 827 suspects who appeared before courts countrywide. During the same period, 217 accused individuals were convicted and sentenced. 

New blood at the Hawks 

At the start of the briefing, Lebeya introduced Lieutenant-General Siphesihle Nkosi as the Hawks’ new national deputy head. Lebeya said Nkosi had “immense experience in fraud and commercial crime investigation” and pointed to some of Nkosi’s qualifications: a National Diploma in Police Administration and two honours degrees — a Bachelor of Technology in Policing and a Bachelor of Laws. Nkosi is currently studying towards a master’s degree in philosophy. 

Other appointments included seven senior managers and 244 members, who ranged from junior level to middle managers, said Lebeya.

“It is encouraging to report that the DPCI has grown to 52% from the last financial year,” he said. “The process of capacitating the DPCI is continuing.”  

During the briefing, Lebeya highlighted 50 cases, which he said represented “5% of these successes”. 

Municipal fraud 

Lebeya said the municipal manager of Maluti-a-Phofung, Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha, and a number of co-accused were arrested in July and August  on charges of fraud, corruption, forgery and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act. 

“It is alleged that in 2020, the suspect authorised a service provider for security services without a tender being advertised,” said Lebeya. 

“It is further reported that some senior officials at the municipality wrote several letters to the suspect advising him to advertise the tender for the security but he failed to do so; an estimated amount of R58-million was paid to the security company irregularly for a period of two years.”  

News24 reported that the investigations were launched following whistleblowers lifting the lid on the contract. The case was postponed to 18 January, with the accused out on bail ranging from R150,000 to R500,000. 

In another case, three suspects were arrested for fraud, theft and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act for selling municipal land to a private person. The suspects are employees and a municipal manager from the Msukaligwa Municipality in Mpumalanga. The case was postponed to 5 December.

Covid-19 pandemic

Lebeya spoke of the arrest of the deputy chief director of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, Sipho Ronny Monareng, who allegedly colluded with colleagues and company directors during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to Lebeya, Monareng “made misrepresentation by submitting claims to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure for services which were never rendered, which prejudiced the department by an amount of R1.38-million”. 

Six people were arrested in September by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation unit based in Nelspruit, something which was welcomed by the Special Investigating Unit, according to The Sowetan. The six appeared in court on charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering. 

“The case is postponed to 19 January 2023 for additional accused,” said Lebeya. 


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Infrastructure and cable theft 

Four suspects — who Netwerk24 reported were a former police official, his wife who previously worked for Eskom, an Elim municipal worker and another Eskom employee — were arrested for allegedly stealing copper cables worth about R306,065 in Bredasdorp. 

According to Lebeya, the suspects, Percival Olkers, Kay-Ann Olkers, Inge Fortuin and Carlo Cloete, were arrested during a multidisciplinary operation which consisted of the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation team in Bellville together with the Crime Intelligence Winelands Cluster and Gansbaai and Struisbaai detectives, supported by Eskom. 

On 31 August, in the Oudtshoorn Magistrates’ Court, Lubabalo Mpumbane was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for tampering with essential infrastructure. He and his co-accused, Tankiso Sekutoana, Motlatsi Motaane, Mohau Khene and Bakoena Elliot Maliehe, were arrested on 13 June 2017 in Ladismith while cutting and transporting Telkom copper cables. His co-accused were sentenced in October to seven years’ imprisonment each.  

Endangered species theft 

Lebeya also gave updates on the theft of endangered species. 

On 16 August, the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation unit based in Springbok, working with the local K9 unit and a Department of Environmental Affairs official, arrested four suspects for possession of abalone without a permit. 

Lebeya identified the suspects as Emelio Saal (29), Keith Saal (34), Conwald Wyngaard (37), and Hubert Felix (39). 

“During the operation, four diving suits, a bag containing units of abalone valued at an estimated amount of R84,000 and a vehicle which was used as an instrument in the commission of the crime were confiscated,” said Lebeya. The case will be heard on 12 November at the Port Nolloth court. 

Two German nationals, Daniel Lodhe (33) and Marco Drescher (54) were arrested in November 2019 by the Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation team together with a Gauteng Nature Conservation team at Askham in the ZF Mgcawu District.

In July 2022, the duo were convicted and sentenced by the Upington Regional Court on four counts of dealing and possession of endangered species, based on a plea agreement. 

“They each received wholly suspended sentences of two to five years imprisonment or a R50,000 to R75,000 fine. Lodhe was further instructed to pay R350,000 to Nature Conservation, whereas Drescher was instructed to pay R100,000,” said Lebeya. Both were declared unfit to possess a firearm. 

On 30 August, a Chinese national, Lifu Chen, pleaded guilty to charges of the illegal possession and transporting of abalone in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act. 

Lebeya said the weight of the dried abalone was 202.95kg, which had a street value of more than R1.4-million. Chen was also charged in terms of the Immigration Act.  

“He was sentenced to a wholly suspended sentence of 36 months’ imprisonment with an option of a R50,000 fine for illegal possession of abalone, 12 months’ imprisonment with an option of R10,000 for two counts of contravention of the Marine Living Resources Act and another 12 months’ imprisonment for contravention of the Immigration Act.”

Scams

The Hawks had secured the conviction of Emanuel Ramothuma, who asked his girlfriend to enter into a joint business venture to strengthen their relationship, according to Lebeya. 

“The accused requested his partner to assist in buying a tractor loader backhoe for their potential business. The victim deposited an amount of R470,000 into the account of the accused so that they can buy the backhoe,” said Lebeya. 

The victim had requested to see the backhoe, but Ramothuma presented fake documents as proof of purchase. She reported the matter to the Hawks after she became suspicious when she did not see the backhoe. 

“After conducting a comprehensive investigation, the Hawks found that the accused did not buy the TLB; instead he used all the money for himself,” said Lebeya. On 11 August, Ramothuma appeared before the Polokwane Specialised Commercial Crimes Court and he was sentenced to five years’ direct imprisonment. 

In another case, in May 2018, a complainant was lured into transferring amounts of R166,000 and R1-million intended for investment into Johandre Visagie’s personal account. “The promised high interest, as well as money he deposited, was lost,” said Lebeya. 

The matter was then referred to the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crimes Unit based in Bloemfontein, and in July 2019, Visagie appeared in court. 

“On 28 July 2022, Visagie was convicted and sentenced by the Bloemfontein Magistrates’Court to six months up to 10 years’ imprisonment for several counts of fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which will run concurrently,” said Lebeya.

Other cases 

Other cases highlighted by Lebeya included tender fraud, illegal mining, cash-in-transit heists and police killings. 

Lebeya mentioned the life sentence handed to right-wing extremist pastor and terrorist Harry Knoesen, who had plotted the genocide of black people in South Africa. Knoesen was arrested for contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Matters Act, incitement to carry out terrorist attacks in South Africa, recruiting people to carry out terrorist attacks and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Right-wing ‘terrorist pastor’s’ dark plans for a bloody coup unravel in high court”

He was found guilty in June. The Mpumalanga High Court sentenced him in September to two terms of life imprisonment and an additional 15 years’ imprisonment for planning terrorist attacks. He will also serve time for the unlawful possession of firearms as well as the unlawful possession of ammunition. 

Vetting update 

Two weeks ago, during a briefing before Parliament’s public accounts watchdog, Lebeya said the agency was still waiting for security clearance certificates for employees from the State Security Agency. The agency had 17 individuals who needed the required clearance, Lebeya confirmed both before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and Tuesday’s briefing. Lebeya said five officials had obtained their clearances and 12 were still being processed. DM

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