News / South Africa

Virginia Keppler
2 minute read
20 Mar 2018
6:15 am

Officials’ drug mule freedom-for-cash scheme bust

Virginia Keppler

The 11 officials allegedly released 36 female parolees - most of them drug smugglers - from prisons for between R3K and R6K.

Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba, left, Police Minister Bheki Cele, center, and General Khehla John Sitole are seen during a press briefing at the GCIS offices in Pretoria on 19 March 2018. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Minister of Police Bheki Cele claimed a victory in his “squeezing crime to zero” project yesterday after police arrested several government officials implicated in an allegedly illegal parole scheme.

The officials allegedly illegally released 36 female parolees from prisons in exchange for payments ranging from R3 000 to R6 000. Cele said most of the women were drug smugglers and were incarcerated in Johannesburg Womens’ Prison.

The suspects were arrested on Friday in Soweto and Johannesburg after a joint anti-corruption investigation undertaken by the department of home affairs, the department of correctional services and the SA Police Service crime intelligence unit.

Cele said they released the women over a period of more than a year and were facing corruption charges.

He said the Saps crime intelligence unit had been investigating the allegedly corrupt activities of a multitude of department of correctional services and department of home affairs officials since mid-2016.

“The foreign parolees, most of whom were drug smugglers or drug mules, have to be released and deported to their country of origin through the Lindela Deportation Centre. Instead they were sent directly to the Johannesburg home affairs office for a procedural and illegal early release.

“Some of the illegally released parolees and ex-convicts left South Africa at their own expense. Some remained here, of which six have been rearrested.”

They were three Guyana nationals from South America and one Zambian who were arrested for narcotics offences and two Zimbabweans arrested for theft.

The officials were paid in cash or by deposits into their bank accounts. The inmates from African countries had to pay R3 000, while those from outside Africa, such as the South Americans, were charged R6 000.

“The department of correctional services’ suspects also compiled fraudulent parole documents enabling the suspects from home affairs to create false release documents to assist the inmates to flee South Africa or remain in the country,” Cele said.

Twenty-six corrupt officials were identified, but after consultations with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, it was decided that 11 would be indicted.

Police are still hunting one suspect while the eleventh died last month.

Most of the suspected officials appeared in court yesterday.

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