NPA big wig faces charges

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INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Lawrence Mrwebi. Photo: Independent Newspapers

 

Johannesburg - A National Prosecuting Authority big wig, who controversially cleared crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli of corruption charges, faces arrest for allegedly meddling in an investigation involving a R20 million tender.

The Sunday Independent has established that moves are afoot within the NPA to charge one of their own, Lawrence Mrwebi, head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit, before the end of this month.

Mrwebi has been accused of trying to interfere in – and even block – an investigation into friend and colleague Terrence Joubert, the head of NPA’s security and risk management in KwaZulu-Natal.

Joubert was implicated in the irregular award of a R20m security tender within the authority several years ago.

The charges come as the NPA dominates headlines after it was revealed that recently appointed National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana had been denied security clearance because he failed to declare a 1985 murder he was involved in.

Former justice minister Jeff Radebe had asked Nxasana to step down as a result.

It is understood that new Justice Minister Michael Masutha will be meeting President Jacob Zuma to discuss Nxasana’s future.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Independent understands Nxasana would take on Mrwebi, who was dealt a blow in September last year when North Gauteng High Court Judge John Murphy found that Mrwebi’s decision to withdraw the charges against Mdluli was illegal, irrational and based on irrelevant considerations and material errors of law – ultimately so unreasonable that no reasonable prosecutor could have taken it.

The case against Mrwebi was initially opened in February last year by his colleague Nathi Mncube, who had been assigned to assist the police with their investigation.

But two sources with knowledge of the investigation, who did not want to be named for fear of fuelling the factional battle in the organisation, confirmed that Mrwebi would actually be charged and arrested before the end of June.

But on Saturday Mrwebi said he was unaware of the latest development. “This case the Johannesburg director of public prosecutions, Advocate Andrew Chauke, had declined to prosecute as recently as February so I am not sure where the allegations are coming from.”

Chauke, when contacted, said he had made a recommendation to Nxasana in February and he had to make the final decision.

He would not be drawn into speaking about what his recommendation was.

But Mncube, who is also the NPA spokesman, refused to comment on the matter. “I cannot confirm anything. We certainly do not want to be drawn into that one,” said Mncube on Saturday.

However, The Sunday Independent has seen a copy of the internal memo sent to two deputy national directors of public prosecutions and to Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, who was acting national director of public prosecutions at the time, detailing the complaint by Mncube. According to the documents, Mrwebi is alleged to have interfered on several occasions.

In one instance, he approached Mncube and instructed him to submit monthly reports of the case to two of his colleagues, saying the instruction had come from Jiba.

Mrwebi had also allegedly contacted police officers investigating the case instructing them not to continue with raids at the implicated colleague’s house.

When approached by Mncube about it, he questioned Mncube about the warrants and told him that he wanted to advise Joubert of the next course of action regarding the raids.

“It is my view that the attempt to stop the search and seizure operations at Mr Joubert’s house constitutes a violation of his oath of office. I view his conduct as a serious contravention of the (NPA) Act. Further, I am of the view that it amounts to a criminal offence of defeating the ends of justice.

“It is my view that at least two incidents mentioned above amount to a criminal act of attempting to defeat the ends of justice and that such should be reported to the police,” states the document.

In another instance, Mrwebi allegedly decided that a specialised commercial crimes unit prosecutor should rather be appointed to take the matter and attempted to dismiss Mncube from the case.

This was, however, contrary to correspondence Mncube had with Jiba, who had in a letter asked him to devote his time to the matter.

Mncube said that while he was not opposed to the matter being handled by another prosecutor, he said he was opposed to it being prosecuted by a prosecutor who reported directly or indirectly to Mrwebi. He cites another incident where Mrwebi allegedly called him and asked him to change a bail condition.

“It is expected of him to appreciate that his continued involvement in a case involving his best friend (by his admission) constitutes a serious conflict of interest that could have a negative result for the case,” said Mncube in the memo.

candice.bailey@inl.co.za

Sunday Independent


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