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Four years ago, Michael Thomas was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 18 months’ correctional supervision. Today he is one of the top cops in the crime intelligence unit – a colonel appointed by suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
And his name has disappeared from correctional services’ records.
Thomas was first appointed to crime intelligence as a lieutenant-colonel on January 28 last year.
Two months later, he was promoted to colonel.
Thomas, a former KwaZulu-Natal state prosecutor and advocate, was convicted of fraud after he did not hand over R4 000 bail to a client following his acquittal.
The Star understands that after his appointment, police management found that he had not disclosed his criminal record during his appointment process.
High-ranking sources from within the police’s covert unit said Thomas was one of many of Mdluli’s appointments, and family members reportedly got jobs too.
Thomas is also said to be among the 26 police officers who were transferred to the crime division “as pawns in a political power play” between Mdluli and suspended police commissioner Bheki Cele.
Sources said he is also said to be among the more than 15 criminals employed in the unit since the process to fill about 250 posts began.
The inspector-general of intelligence, Faith Radebe, is investigating the employment of the 15 criminals and the alleged irregular promotions, including those of the 26 police officers.
Meanwhile, the Star has reliably learnt that the Hawks are investigating the circumstances around Thomas’s employment.
However, all national police spokesman Brigadier Lindela Mashigo would say was: “The matter is a subject of investigation.”
Prior to his employment in the police service, Thomas worked as a public prosecutor before working as a private lawyer in Durban. He is said to be a close associate of President Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, who he uses as a reference.
Thomas committed the fraud on March 13, 2001 by pocketing the R4 000 in cash that his client had paid for bail. He was arrested by the Berea police in Durban on July 28, 2003. The Durban Magistrate’s Court convicted him and sentenced him to 18 months’ correctional supervision on January 17, 2008.
He was employed as a lieutenant-colonel in January last year before he was promoted to colonel in March last year.
Now, disgruntled members in the unit are blaming Mdluli for his “rampant jobs-for-pals spree” that they say is hampering the effective operations of the intelligence unit.
“This is an insult to the honest members of the SAPS who may never reach the ranks of lieutenant-colonel in their careers. There are ranks of constable, sergeant, warrant officer, lieutenant, captain and major before one can become a lieutenant-colonel,” the source said.
“We understand that, at times, crime intelligence may appoint criminals to be able to infiltrate other criminals.
“However, if Thomas cannot pursue his (legal) profession because of his dishonesty, how can he be trusted by the police?”
Correctional Services Department spokesman Phumlani Ximiya confirmed that Thomas was convicted. He said Thomas had presented himself to the community corrections offices to be put on the system on February 8, 2008. He again presented himself on February 15, to be informed of his conditions of sentence and which community service project to report to. But his name had disappeared from Correctional services’ records on February 8, after he had said he wanted to appeal.
“We are currently investigating why he has not appeared on our records,” Ximiya said.
Meanwhile, Freedom Under Law has welcomed acting national commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi’s decision to suspend Mdluli again. Earlier this month, it applied for an urgent court interdict after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa deployed Mdluli to the intelligence division’s operational unit. The organisation called on Mthethwa to reinstate the criminal and disciplinary charges against Mdluli.