Chatsworth cop fired over ‘Teddy Mafia’ escort

File photo: SAPS (Twitter)

File photo: SAPS (Twitter)

Published Nov 1, 2020

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Durban - A Chatsworth police officer was fired on Friday for following the instructions of his commanding officer to escort alleged drug dealer Yaganathan “Teddy Mafia” Pillay to his Shallcross home from a court appearance in May.

Sergeant Trevor Chetty drove the police vehicle seen in a video of Pillay’s “homecoming” which went viral.

Teddy Mafia, 62, was arrested on April 30 in a multi-disciplinary police operation at his home after police found unlicensed firearms. Police also seized R700 000 in cash and gold and silver coins estimated to be worth R250 000.

Pillay was granted R5 000 bail in Chatsworth Magistrate’s Court after a three-day hearing and ordered to report at a police station twice weekly.

A police probe was launched to address the viral video and alleged misconduct of the officers.

The investigation resulted in an expeditious process where statements were submitted by Chatsworth SAPS station commander, head of support, two accused officers and operational commander who gave the order.

The presiding officer was the station commander of Verulam SAPS.

Chetty was dismissed and the constable who was in the vehicle with him was suspended for one month without pay. Chetty was served his dismissal papers on Friday and the constable returned to work on Monday.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Chetty questioned why Warrant Officer Jayantheron “Lenny” Chetty was not investigated or charged as he ordered the escort.

“I’m a family man who went to work to put food on the table for my wife and seven-year-old son but I got fired for following instructions of a senior officer who has been left untouched. I did nothing wrong. I have served loyally for 18 years. I even got Covid-19 on the job and returned to serve but they fired me,” he said.

“The constable and I went to the court and waited for Pillay’s release and informed the constable the importance of our work as Teddy Mafia was a controversial figure and there was fear of potential backlash after his release. We kept a safe distance and on arrival at his home overtook the cars ahead of us and left,” he said.

They were later called into the office of the station commander who questioned their actions.

The station commander’s statement read: “I asked about the video and sergeant Chetty said he was instructed by warrant officer Chetty to escort the group ... warrant officer Chetty said yes, he gave the instruction but when the support head questioned if he escorted drug lords he changed his version that meant members must patrol around the area where the group was going.”

Chetty added he held no favour for Pillay as one of his relatives was fatally wounded and Pillay was an alleged suspect.

“I feel broken. Sometimes I feel like I should just drive into a dam or tie a rope to a tree. How do I care for my family or pay my rent? I was just doing my job. I am just a fall guy but is this the power that Teddy Mafia has? I have to be strong for my family and fight this. I will be appealing my dismissal.”

Chetty said the matter was internally handled and he could not comment in detail.

“Departmental processes were followed and a trial commenced. The decisions that followed came from the presiding officer. That is all I can say.”

Pillay, who has been battling Covid19 at home, said the police escort was unnecessary since he had his private security arranged to take him home. The generosity and the willingness of the officers to drive him home made him suspect they were instructed by someone from an opposing party.

“We did not even speak to the officers and I didn’t know if they were working with a third party to watch us. When we came out of court, an officer told us that he was escorting us.”

Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker confirmed that an independent internal investigation was initiated following allegations that police officers were part of a convoy spotted escorting a well-known drug dealer. He said a sanction of dismissal against one member was imposed while the other received one-month suspension without pay for his role.

“We respect the findings of the independent investigation and disciplinary proceedings. We again wish to thank extremely concerned members of the community who brought such serious misconduct to our attention and reaffirm our commitment to deal decisively with police officers accused of misconduct and criminality.”

Sunday Tribune

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crime and courts