News / South Africa / State Capture

Makhosandile Zulu
4 minute read
30 Sep 2019
3:57 pm

Crime intelligence slush fund paid for shopping in Singapore, commission hears

Makhosandile Zulu

The witness says former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli's love interest at the time was 'heavy on the pocket'.

Ex-crime intelligence member Colonel Dhanajaya Naidoo on Monday told the commission of inquiry into state capture of an unnecessary trip to Singapore by members of crime intelligence.

Members of crime intelligence and civilians, including Naidoo; former intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and his girlfriend at the time, Theresa Lyons; former police major general Solomon Lazarus; Colonel Hein Barnard and his wife; among others, allegedly travelled to Singapore on October 20, 2009, and returned on October 29 that year.

The trip to Singapore came about two weeks after Mdluli returned on a trip to China which he had taken with his wife, the commission heard.

Naidoo told the chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that the flight tickets to China had cost R86,152 which was paid with R50,000 loaned from a car dealership and R50,000 withdrawn as an advance from the secret services account (SSA).

Naidoo said from the R13,848 difference left over after purchasing the tickets to China, he took R10,000 and another advance of R10,000 from the SSA which he gave to Mdluli in cash before he left for China. He said he later used the R3,848 for his personal use.

“General Mdluli never took any advances in his name, chair,” Naidoo said.

Naidoo said Lazarus had told him that the trip to Singapore was to purchase spy equipment for crime intelligence.

The SSA was used to pay for the tickets of some of the eight who travelled to Singapore, including Naidoo and Lyons’ tickets, the commission heard.

Naidoo said Mdluli, Lyons, and Lazarus flew business class while the rest flew economy.

He said the equipment was purchased over a period of two days, spending approximately two hours each day at the electronics shop where the purchase was made.

However, Naidoo said he did not pay much attention to what was being purchased.

The contingent of eight spent the rest of the time in Singapore shopping and sightseeing, the commission heard.

“In my view, this trip was not necessary at all,” Naidoo said, adding that the purchases could have been done online or that a more qualified crime intelligence member should have made the trip.

Naidoo also told the commission that his sister had asked for a camera which he purchased in Singapore using funds from the SSA, which Lazarus and Barnard approved.

He added that as far as he knew, the camera was captured as belonging to crime intelligence while it was in the possession of his sister.

The commission heard that Mdluli and Lazarus did not want customs to know what they were bringing into the country and so Mdluli arranged with his contacts at the airport to skip customs, which occurred.

Naidoo said Barnard’s wife, who worked at the bank, had made arrangements of two credit cards, one of which was made out in the colonel’s name and another in his name and that each of these cards was preloaded with R100,000.

Naidoo said he was not sure how much of the R200,000 was spent in Singapore, however, he said more than 80% of it was used.

Naidoo also told the commission that at some stage of the trip in Singapore, Lazarus had informed him that the “queen is heavy on the pocket”, referring to Lyons.

Naidoo said Mdluli had complained to Lazarus that Lyons was shopping too much and so he needed more money.

Naidoo told the commission that over a period of time he had worked closely with Lazarus, which was how he became close to Mdluli and did errands for the two.

“I basically became their lackey,” Naidoo told Zondo, adding that at times he would be called at odd hours to run errands for Mdluli and Lazarus.

These errands included stocking with groceries a safe house which Mdluli made use of at the time, as well as ensuring a vehicle parked there was kept clean, and purchasing flight tickets for the former crime intelligence boss.

“These things took up quite of my time,” Naidoo said, which meant he was hardly in the office, he added.

The money he needed for Mdluli’s groceries he obtained from the SSA.

Naidoo said on one particular Saturday, he was called in the morning by Durban businessman Timmy Marimuthu, who asked him to purchase a toothbrush and toothpaste and for these items to be brought to him.

Naidoo had earlier told the commission that he had heard rumours police minister Bheki Cele had been involved in Marimuthu securing tenders when he was MEC for transport in KwaZulu-Natal.

Naidoo said at the time Marimuthu called him, Lazarus and the businessman had likely formed a relationship. Later Marimuthu was signed onto crime intelligence as a contact person, Naidoo added.

The call from Marimuthi, “it really made me stop to think for a moment, ‘Is this what crime intelligence has come to?’,” Naidoo told the commission, adding that it also made him question his reasons for joining the police.

“It was a low point.”

The commission adjourned for the day as Naidoo was giving testimony on 250 posts, which resulted in the appointment of Mdluli, Lazarus, and Marimuthu’s family and friends.

These appointments were made even though the candidates did not possess the required experience or qualifications.

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