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Former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli’s criminal case drags on 11 years later

Former Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli with his co-accused Heine Barnard and Solomon Lazarus during a previous court appearance in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Former Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli with his co-accused Heine Barnard and Solomon Lazarus during a previous court appearance in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 21, 2022

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Pretoria - The criminal trial of former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and his two co-accused has been 11 years in the making - and there is still no clarity on when it will start.

To add salt to the wound, Mdluli now wants to review the decision of the SAPS not to pay for his defence.

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The prosecution yesterday asked the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to put its foot down and order that the trial start, even if Mdluli is still fighting for the SAPS to fund his legal fees.

Prosecutor Arno Rossouw asked Judge Papi Mosopa to postpone the matter to September 20 for a pretrial conference on the way forward. He also asked that the judge then set a trial date.

Mdluli, Heine Barnard and Solomon Lazarus are facing numerous charges of fraud, corruption and theft relating to a secret SAPS slush fund.

Rossouw argued that Mdluli could not delay matters any further, simply because he wanted to take the court’s earlier ruling that the SAPS should not have to pay his legal bill, on review.

According to Rossouw, it was unfair to Mdluli’s co-accused to drag the case on,

Besides, Rossouw argued, while it was Mdluli’s right to fight for the SAPS to foot his legal bill, there was not much prospect of success.

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He said the alleged crimes were said to have been committed in Mdluli’s personal capacity and they did not flow from his work as a police officer.

“Why must the state pay for his legal fees if he is charged with dishonesty?“ Rossouw asked, adding that the trial could very easily continue while Mdluli’s review application went ahead.

He also pointed out that it was impossible to say when the review proceedings would start and conclude. Rossouw said the review issue may even end up in the Supreme Court or Constitutional Court, which could take years.

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“They (the defence) are welcome to proceed with that application, but this court cannot be held at ransom for the next five years,” he said.

Rossouw added that the witnesses in the case were elderly people. One witness was aged about 70. Another had been in the State’s witness protection programme since 2011.

Counsel for Mdluli said they did file papers to take the refusal by the police to pay the legal bill on review, but no date had yet been set for the hearing.

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He agreed that the matter could eventually go to the Constitutional Court, but said the criminal trial could not proceed before Mdluli had certainty about who would pay his legal fees.

Counsel for the other two accused asked that charges against them be provisionally withdrawn until Mdluli sorted out his legal fees issues.

The court, however, refused this request.

The matter was postponed to September 20 for a pretrial conference to see how far Mdluli’s review application was and pave the way forward.

While his co-accused are out on warnings, Mdluli is facing the trial from behind bars as he is serving a five-year jail term for the assault and kidnapping of his former lover Tshidi Buthelezi and two others following an incident in 1998.

The allegations levelled against him in his fraud trial include alleged payment of private trips to China and Singapore, private use of witness protection houses, and leasing out of his private residence to the state to pay his bond.

Pretoria News

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