Solly Lazarus pleads not guilty to fraud charges

Lazarus and a crime intelligence colleague are accused of using secret funds to buy vehicles and luxury goods.

Picture: Freeimages.com

PRETORIA - Former Crime Intelligence Chief Financial Officer Solly Lazarus and his subordinate Hein Barnard have pleaded not guilty to charges related to defrauding the unit's secret slush fund.

Their trial has started in the Pretoria regional court today and has been set down for two days.

The pair is accused of using secret crime intelligence funds to buy vehicles and other luxury goods worth several hundred thousand rand.

Advocate Estelle Killian told the court that her clients deny they had access to or benefited from the so-called secret service account of crime intelligence.

It's alleged Lazarus and Barnard colluded with a vehicle dealer principal, Jan Venter, to channel funds from the secret service account to buy the vehicles.

While the pair admitted to buying several cars for their personal use, they deny using state funds to do so.

The state called Venter as its first witness, who testified that he had known Barnard since 1994 when he started procuring vehicles for crime intelligence through the dealership.

BARNARD AND LAZARUS INCRIMINATED

Venter testified that Lazarus was required to approve the deals and that the vehicles were purchased by a crime intelligence front company called UTE.

He said around 2007, Barnard asked him to setup a secret cash account, called Barute, which he was told would be used for covert purposes.

Venter explained that profit from the cars bought by UTE was then channeled into this secret account, which Barnard and Lazarus started using to buy vehicles for personal use.

The vehicle dealer says an estimated R1,1 million was paid out of the account on Barnard's instruction.