Ipid probes failed plot to buy votes at ANC conference
The details of a failed plot to defraud Crime Intelligence of nearly R50 million are contained in an Ipid memorandum which EWN has seen.
PRETORIA - Eyewitness News has learnt that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is investigating a failed plot to defraud Crime Intelligence of nearly R50 million in order to secure funds to buy votes at the African National Congress (ANC)’s elective conference in December last year.
The details are contained in an Ipid memorandum which EWN has seen.
EWN can further reveal that the Inspector-General of Intelligence Professor Setlhomamaru Dintwe was asked to stop Ipid from investigating the scam, and when he refused to do so, was threatened with losing his job.
It is understood that Ipid suspects Police Minister Fikile Mbalula of orchestrating the scam, together with his advisor Bongani Mbindwane and several senior police officers, including National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole and acting Crime Intelligence Divisional Commissioner Bhoyi Ngcobo.
It is alleged that the parties conspired with a police supplier to push through an invoice for a grabber – a cellphone-locating device – at a heavily inflated price, in order to launder funds to be used to buy votes for former ANC presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
All the parties have strongly denied their involvement in any plot to defraud the unit and to use the funds to undermine the ANC’s democratic processes. The allegations have further been dismissed as a conspiracy to tarnish the image of Mbalula, his advisors and senior police officers.
Mbalula was a staunch supporter of Dlamini Zuma in the run-up to the conference, confidently proclaiming on Twitter on 5 December that she “will be ANC President first female President #historyMade brace yourselves…” (sic).
DENIALS – AN ELABORATE HOAX
National security advisor Mbindwane said Mbalula did not play any role in such a scam. He further denied his own involvement in any such plan. “I do not take part in operational matters of SAPS. I also do not take part in procurement processes. The Minister does not either,” he said.
Mbindwane further claims that the information provided to EWN is part of an elaborate plot to discredit the minister. “Due to the classification nature of the matters that leads to the ‘story’ landing with you, I am also not able to share with you details of a very elaborate project behind the ‘story’, save to say it’s a hoax, a deliberate hoax by those who gave you the ‘story’, it is intertwined with power politics and organised crime,” he said.
Mbindwane said they were expecting the story to be published at some point. “We were forewarned of the plot to discredit and character assassinate us for political and professional reasons.”
Responding on behalf of Sitole and Ngcobo, SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo rejected claims that the pair colluded with Mbalula as part of a plot to defraud Crime Intelligence or to secure funds in a cash-for-votes scam.
He was, however, vague on claims that there were in fact meetings and a push to urgently procure a cellphone grabber. “In the efforts of the SAPS to decisively deal with crime in this country, there will be instances when all avenues within the ambit of the law will need to be explored. One of the deliverables which forms part of the National Commissioner’s turn-around strategy is to enhance the technical capacity and capabilities of the SAPS. Therefore, such engagements are and will always be likely to take place,” he said.
EWN has seen a letter signed on 15 December - days before the ANC conference - by a senior Ipid investigator, and addressed to Sitole, which states that they had been made aware of an invoice worth R45 million which was being pushed through at all costs.
The letter reads: “It was also brought to our attention that such amount of money directed to I-View Integrated Systems was in fact to be laundered for buying of votes at the ANC Conference. The Directorate engaged a number of SAPS senior officials, some have confirmed that such transaction was being pushed at all costs resulting in a strained relationship amongst senior members. It is against this background that the Directorate finds the alleged transaction suspicious.”
Ipid recommended that the transaction with I-View be stopped with immediate effect and that the SAPS suspend all dealings with I-View until the investigation was completed.
The letter further reveals that I-View was already in Ipid’s sights. In November, it was alleged that Crime Intelligence officials were in the process of destroying evidence related to a 2016 contract with the Durban-based service provider.
The deal under investigation at that time is said to have lost the police an estimated R54 million.
In the middle of November, Ipid, together with the Inspector-General of Intelligence, raided the Crime Intelligence head office in Erasmuskloof as well as I-View’s Durban offices where they seized laptops, computers and cellphones as evidence.
The sole director of I-View is Durban businessman Inbanathan Kistiah, who made headlines in December when the Sunday Times reported he acted as a middleman in the sale of bulletproof vests to the SAPS. The cost of the vests was allegedly inflated, coming in at an estimated R33,000 each.
Sources close to the investigation of the cash-for-votes scam say a meeting was allegedly called at the Courtyard Hotel in Pretoria on 13 December and was attended by Sitole, Ngcobo, Mbindwane and other members of Crime Intelligence, as well as Kistiah. Surveillance footage seized by Ipid places the parties at the hotel and corroborates statements by whistleblowers. It was claimed that the unit had to urgently procure a cellphone grabber from Kistiah’s company in order to neutralise a threat to the ANC’s conference.
The following day, it is alleged that a meeting was held at Ngcobo’s office in Erasmuskloof where an urgent procurement document was prepared to the value of R45 million. However, the document could not be signed off because the officers present only had the delegation to sign deals up to the value of R10 million. The only person who could sign the document was Sitole.
It is alleged that the officers present at that meeting were then summoned to Nasrec, where the ANC’s conference was to be held, to meet with Mbalula. By this time, two whistleblowers had informed Ipid of the plan to secure the Crime Intelligence funds.
The next day, 15 December, is when Ipid sent the memo to Sitole, informing him of the pending case against I-View, as well as the fresh allegations of the scam to secure funds to be used at the ANC conference.
SPOOK WATCHDOG SUMMONED
Sources say that it was at this point that Dintwe was called and asked to stop Ipid from investigating the deal. He was told that the procurement of the device was in the national interest. Dintwe refused to intervene and the bid to push through the deal and obtain the funds failed.
With Ipid now investigating the scam, the implicated parties tried to put in place measures to cover their tracks. It’s alleged that Ngcobo and Mbindwane called a meeting with Dintwe where he was asked to sign a back-dated document to the effect that he was aware of the plans to buy the grabber. It’s understood Dintwe refused to the sign the document, saying that as an oversight body it was highly irregular for him to intervene in matters related to procurement.
A senior official in Dintwe’s office confirmed the Inspector General was first threatened with losing his job for not helping stop Ipid’s investigation, and secondly, asked to sign a back-dated document which would be used to justify the urgent need to procure the grabber.
Legal advisor in the IGI’s office Advocate Jay Govender did not deny the meetings took place.
“The Inspector-General cannot disclose details of any of his meetings, including its participants due to his constitutional mandate of oversight which includes limitations on disclosure.”
She added that the IGI and Ipid have an agreement in place that includes conducting joint investigations. “In light of this and in accordance with the law we are not in a position to comment on ongoing investigations, especially on investigations carried out by other law enforcement agencies,” she said.
Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said: “It is a matter of public record that the Ipid and IGI have formed a task team to investigate amongst others the looting of the Secret Service Account in Crime Intelligence and these investigations have uncovered fraud and corruption and have rattled a lot of people. The arrest of Morris ‘Captain KGB’ Tshabalala is part of the ongoing investigation and the information gleaned will shock law-abiding citizens,” he said.
Kistiah said while he was limited in what he able to say on the record because of “an oath of secrecy and confidentiality” to his clients, he stressed that “at no stage in its history of its existence nor currently has I-View been involved in any corrupt and fraudulent activities of any nature whatsoever.”
Cyril Ramaphosa’s office and the ANC did not respond to requests for comment.