Former CATS unit head defends getting involved in Sars complaint at state capture hearing
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The former head of a Hawks unit has dismissed allegations of fraud and defeating the ends of justice that were previously levelled against him.
Brigadier Nyameko Xaba, of the Crimes Against the State (CATS) Unit, testified before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Wednesday.
He told the commission he joined the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) Hawks in 2009 and in 2011 joined the CATS unit. However, in 2016, serious allegations were made against him.
These relate to testimony given by former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Major-General Johan Booysen and Ipid's Limpopo leader, Innocent Khuba, and former Ipid head Robert McBride.
McBride previously told the State Capture Commission the CATS unit was used to pursue a political agenda and to target individuals within the criminal justice cluster who stood up against state capture.
The commission’s evidence leader, Garth Hulley, quizzed Xaba on the unit and being implicated by Booysen. He asked Xaba if Booysen was familiar with the mandate of the CATS unit.
But Xaba said he could not answer for him if he was aware or not; he added that at that time CATS fell under the national not provincial auspices.
Hulley told Xaba that in his testimony, Booysen had indicated that: “He finds it unusual that a brigadier who is in charge of the Hawks crimes against the state unit would involve himself with a complaint from Sars and the commission of statements of Nomgcobo Jiba in civil investigation against me …”
Hulley further told Xaba: “In his (Booysen’s) understanding of the type of work Xaba was doing, he (Booysen) finds it rather surprising and shocking that you would be involved in an investigation relating to SARS or any other investigations that Xaba was involved in.”
But Xaba said: “That accusation by Booysen that we were involved in the investigation of SARS, I want to prove that the way he thought is not the way we also thought about the case.
’’The case of SARS when it was opened, it was opened by SARS commission and that case was having various charges or counts of the case whereby there was espionage, money laundering, racketeering, contravention of intelligence legislation including corruption, that falls under our mandate. I fail to understand when he says we were not supposed to investigate that case.
“We as the CATS don't choose who is the complainant or who is the suspect, we treat people equally. What we did was only investigate; after we are done with the investigation we take the docket to the NPA.
’’Furthermore if we investigate, we request the prosecutor to assist in guiding the prosecution. But that case of SARS fell within our mandate,” said Xaba.
Meanwhile, one of the commission’s investigators, Clearance Benjamin, earlier in the day dealt with Transnet-related evidence and gave a review of an MNS report and his further investigation in the relationship between "Gupta lieutenant" Salim Essa and Gupta associate Iqbal Sharma, who was appointed Transnet board member by former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba.
The evidence was largely based on documentation that Benjamin procured as well as a diagram of the MNS presentation he took the commission through.
Benjamin said in January 2011, Sharma had joined the newly formed board's acquisitions and disposals committee (BADC) and was ultimately appointed as chairman in August 2012 by the Transnet Board. He added that Sharma remained in that position until his resignation in November 2014.
According to Benjamin, Sharma was appointed to the Transnet board on December 9, 2010 by Gigaba and that he was further nominated to be on the corporate and nominations committee a few days later on December 15, 2010
The MNS report also pointed out that Sharma and Essa were business associates through, among others, the business interests they had in VR Laser, which is one of the Gupta companies.
Shama was denied bail by the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court earlier this month after he was arrested in connection with the failed R288 million Estina dairy project in the Free State. Assets belonging to him and the Guptas were attached pending the outcome of the court case.