Durban - Umhlanga businessman, Thoshan Panday, has vowed to launch the “the civil claim of the century” against the State after bribery charges against him were provisionally withdrawn in the Durban High Court yesterday.
Charges against his co-accused, police Colonel Navin Madhoe, were also provisionally withdrawn.
In 2011, the two were accused of trying to bribe then KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss, Major-General Johan Booysen, with R2 million to quash investigations into a R60m police accommodation tender scam during the 2010 World Cup.
Panday, describing himself as a fighter and a survivor, told the Daily News yesterday that he always knew he would walk free.
“For the past one-and-a-half years, since I was arrested and charged, life has been stressful for myself and my family,” he said.
“Our lives were threatened and I had to employ private, armed security guards to ensure my family’s safety. I was arrested on September 24, 2011 and spent seven days in custody. It was humiliating.”
Panday said his arrest was also carefully planned to coincide with his 40th birthday celebrations, to publicly humiliate him.
“But, despite all the difficult times, I knew the day would come when I would walk free. The charges have been provisionally withdrawn. While some may say that I should not count my chickens before they hatch, I know it’s over. There is no evidence to support the wild claims against me.”
Panday said his arrest, and “character assassination” in the media, had also had an impact on his business image.
He is involved in diamond and petroleum mining, property development as well as imports and exports.
“All the negative publicity has impacted on my business and private life. But, fortunately, the majority have remained supportive and have stood by me since my arrest,” he said.
“When I received word the charges were going to be dropped, I was elated. I thanked God...”.
“This was an attempt by jealous and vindictive cops to take me down. They tried every trick in the book to ruin me. But, it was not about me.
“They thought by closing in on me, they could discredit and expose high ranking police officers for alleged corruption. But it did not work.
“Instead, justice has prevailed. They now look like fools. If they had so much of dope on me, why didn’t it result in my conviction?”
He said another turning point in his case was engaging a new legal team.
“I decided I was not going with a knife to a gunfight. I engaged the best in the legal circles in KZN to fight my battle. It seems like we were victorious.”
Booysen did not want to comment on the charges being withdrawn against Panday, but a source close to the investigation said he was surprised by the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“In my view the evidence was overwhelming. There was sufficient technical, circumstantial and witness evidence for a conviction,” the source said.
“Madhoe was arrested during a sting operation. This was held after obtaining a Section 252 authority more than a week before the operation went down.”
Section 252 of the Criminal Procedure Act regulates the setting of traps and undercover operations.
The source said there was also video footage of the alleged bribe money being placed in the boot of Booysen’s car at the SAPS provincial headquarters in Bram Fischer (Ordnance) Road.
“Fingerprints of one of the accused was also found on a document that was seized during the sting.”
Technical evidence was also obtained, he said.
“All this was in the docket. It is beyond me how the charges were withdrawn.”
Panday denied the claims by the police investigator: “If there is all this evidence, where is it? It never came up in court. My lawyer has never had sight of it.”
Panday said he was waiting on an opinion from his legal team to pursue a major civil claim. “This will be the civil claim of the century... mark my word.”
Yesterday, state prosecutor Wendy Greef did not give any reasons why the charges had been provisionally withdrawn. The ruling was made by Judge Rob Callum.
At the time the two were nabbed in September, 2011, Madhoe had allegedly given Booysen a bag containing R1.3m in the parking lot of the SAPS provincial headquarters in Bram Fischer Road.
The balance of the R2m was allegedly to be paid later.
Police said then that Booysen had been confronted on the day of the alleged bribe to drop an investigation of collusion and tender fraud between Madhoe and Panday.
It was alleged that in an effort to thwart the probe, Booysen had been shown a dossier of photographs of suspects who had died in the custody of Durban’s Organised Crime Unit in Cato Manor.
When Booysen refused to heed the threat, police said at the time, the bribe was allegedly offered.