Yusuf Omarjee

Convicted fraudster Yusuf Omarjee said an organised crime unit police officer was on a “witch-hunt” and was intent on arresting him on trumped-up charges.

Omarjee, the owner of Zungeza Trading, a container storage company, made the claims in an application he brought in the Durban High Court against the police to have Lieutenant Muntomuhle Mbhele removed as the investigating officer in a theft case.

He had opened the theft case earlier this year against two of his former employees, Terrence Pillay and his sister, Laura Pillay, for allegedly stealing more than 100 shipping containers worth R2.5 million.

He said a Maydon Wharf police detective had initially investigated the case, but it had been taken over by Mbhele, who had “insisted” on handling the case.

Mbhele had been the investigating officer in a fraud case in which Omarjee had been charged in 2008.

Omarjee, who was charged with defrauding banks of R39m, pleaded guilty in the Durban Regional Court in December 2010 to 160 counts of fraud and two counts of corruption. He was given an effective suspended sentence and a R2.5m fine.

Omarjee said the previous investigating office had been carrying out a thorough investigation, and had recovered some of the containers and arrested Laura Pillay, but this changed when Mbhele took over the case.

“Since the third respondent (Mbhele) took over, the applicant has not received the level of co-operation and diligence that it is entitled to. Mbhele has not interviewed me and he took over a month to arrest the second accused, Terrence Pillay.”

He added that, as a result of the previous fraud case against him, he and Mbhele had a “bitter and strained relationship”, and Mbhele was disappointed that he had not been sent to jail.

Omarjee claimed that his business was suffering financially as Mbhele had failed to take steps to find the missing containers or move forward with the investigation.

“The third respondent (Mbhele) cannot investigate this case as his judgement is completely tainted by his acrimony and hatred for me. He is intent on building a case against me rather than bringing the Pillays to book. He is also investigating other charges against me and it is therefore improper for him to handle the theft case.”

In a replying affidavit, Mbhele denied that he was carrying out an improper investigation or that he had been hostile towards Omarjee. He said he had taken over the theft case as it was related to other cases he was investigating against Omarjee.

“I deny that I insisted on handling the case. I took over after a decision was made by my commander as it was linked to my other investigation against Omarjee. I further deny that I have ulterior motives to falsely implicate Omarjee. I was not vindictive during the previous investigation. If I am removed, it will cause a delay in the case.”

Keith Flack, the acting provincial commander overseeing the organised crime unit, said it would be “prejudicial to the interests of justice” to have Mbhele removed.

“Omarjee is trying to immunise himself against further investigations and the imposition of the sentence that is currently suspended. A proper investigation is being carried out.”

The case was adjourned to October. - The Mercury