Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Top graft buster targeted

Top graft buster targeted
CHANDRÉ PRINCE | 02 May, 2012

Advocate Glynnis Breytenbach, one of South Africa's top prosecutors, might soon be granted 24-hour police protection after being shot at while driving by unknown gunmen.
Breytenbach - who headed the fraud and corruption case against crime intelligence boss Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli and several other high-profile South Africans, and is regarded as a no-nonsense corruption buster - has in the past three weeks been the target of a shooting and an attempt to force her off the road while on her way home.

Following the shooting on April 11 and the road attack on April 25, the National Prosecuting Authority yesterday said it would, together with the police, conduct a security and risk analysis.

Her safety will be the subject of a parliamentary discussion.

NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said the authority's internal security and risk unit would urgently discuss Breytenbach's safety with law enforcement agencies to determine whether she needs protection.

This could include round-the-clock body-guards if a serious threat is identified.

"We're concerned about her life being at risk . protection or the facilitation of protection of NPA employees is done when a threat is identified during a risk assessment," said Mhaga.

If given protection, Breytenbach will be the second prosecutor dealing with allegations against Mdluli to be placed under police guard.

Last year, April Kholeka Gcaleka - who prosecuted Mdluli in a case involving murder, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice - was also placed "under protection". She was on several occasions escorted from the Boksburg Magistrate's Court by two armed policemen and driven away in a police vehicle.

At the time, Johan Burger, a senior analyst at the Institute for Security Studies, said the two most likely scenarios in which Gcaleka would be assigned a police escort were if there were "a typical Mafia-style crime network, in which case everyone involved in the trial should be protected", or if Mdluli's influence were "so great that there would be fears about her safety".

Breytenbach is understood to have pushed for the fraud case against Mdluli to be continued, but it was questionably removed from the court roll in December.

The charges relate to Mdluli's alleged use of state funds to buy a BMW car for personal use, and abuse of the police's secret slush fund.

The shooting at Breytenbach's car occurred amid growing suspicions that Mdluli, said to be close to President Jacob Zuma, will be appointed national police commissioner once suspended police boss Bheki Cele has left the scene.

Already, all criminal charges and internal police disciplinary proceedings against Mdluli have been withdrawn.

Yesterday, Mdluli joined Zuma and others at Workers' Day events in Bloemfontein.

The NPA's concerns about Breytenbach's safety follow reports that her car was attacked in Centurion.

Beeld yesterday reported that Breytenbach, regional head of the NPA in Gauteng's specialised commercial crime unit, said she was shot at on April 11 near an off-ramp on the N14 highway while on her way to her home in Centurion.

On Wednesday last week, two BMW motorcycles tried to force her off the road while she was on her way to the gym.

"If it was an attempt to intimidate me, it was not successful," she said.

She reported both incidents to the Hawks, but not to the police because she could not identify her alleged assailants.

A seasoned advocate, Breytenbach has been at the helm of sensitive high-profile cases, including the arms deal investigation and the probe into the awarding of mining rights at Sishen to politically-connected Imperial Crown Trading.

Kumba Iron Ore subsequently laid a charge of fraud against ICT, and Breytenbach was appointed prosecutor in the case.

On Monday, Breytenbach was suspended - three months after being served with a notice of intention to do so.

Other than saying that the charges "relate to her conduct in handling one of the cases allocated to her", the suspension letter did not elaborate.

Her lawyer, Gerhard Wagenaar, confirmed her suspension by acting NPA head advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, saying the official reason given was that his client had allegedly abused her powers in the Kumba fraud case.

Wagenaar said he did not know how many charges she faced as they had not received a charge sheet.

Wagenaar said they would decide on the way forward once they had received more details from the NPA.

NPA communications manager Bulelwa Makeke said a disciplinary hearing would be convened within about two weeks.

Asked about the timing of Breytenbach's suspension, Makeke said the delay was due to correspondence between Breytenbach and the NPA, including clarity and further explanations of issues raised by the authority.

Breytenbach has not yet reported the shooting to her NPA bosses.

Said Mhaga: "[We are] worried that the matter was never reported to our security and risk unit because she is still an NPA employee, although on suspension.

"We will follow up this matter with law enforcement and our unit will contact her to get more details and how best to assist her."

Hawks spokesman Colonel McIntosh Polela yesterday confirmed that Breytenbach had reported the incidents to his unit immediately after they happened.

He, however, said she spoke to a senior Hawks official and specialised crime unit investigators. No official case was opened.

"Without an open case, it would be difficult for the Hawks to proceed, but we will follow up on it," said Polela.

The shooting - seen as an intimidation attempt - along with Breytenbach's suspension, has outraged the African Christian Democratic Party's Steve Swart, a member of parliament's justice and constitutional development portfolio committee.

"It is very clear that this campaign of intimidation is linked to advocate Breytenbach's involvement in high-profile cases, including her resistance to the dropping of charges against crime intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli and [Imperial Crown Trading] and [expelled ANC Youth League president Julius] Malema matters," Swart said.

He said prosecutors should be able to perform their duties without fear, favour or prejudice. Swart said the ACDP had previously expressed concerns about the safety of prosecutors in high-profile cases.

"This case cries out for such urgent protection. The ACDP calls on the NPA to urgently provide bodyguards for Advocate Breytenbach, considering that she states she is still being followed."

Swart said the matter would be pursued in parliament.

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