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Top cops probed for rampant corruption

10 November 2013 - 10:29 By Pearlie Joubert
CURRYING FAVOUR: Mohamed Salim Dawjee and his son Zameer Dawjee
CURRYING FAVOUR: Mohamed Salim Dawjee and his son Zameer Dawjee

The criminal case of defeating the ends of justice against national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega has put the spotlight on another investigation into shocking allegations of widespread corruption, money-laundering and racketeering involving a string of the police's top brass in the Western Cape.

At the centre of the scandal is a "generous" businessman, Mohamed Salim Dawjee, who has splashed out on flatscreen plasma TVs, security cameras, a victim support room and even Christmas parties for the police in the province.

The businessman is also known for sending over large pots of curry on Fridays to the police's provincial headquarters, where Western Cape commisioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer is based.

Phiyega is under investigation by the Independent Complaints Directorate for allegedly tipping off Lamoer about a Hawks investigation into him.

The Sunday Times can today reveal that apart from Lamoer, station commissioner of Cape Town central Brigadier Kolindhren "Colin" Govender; his wife, Bellville station commissioner Brigadier Sharon Govender; and Bellville cluster commander Brigadier Darius van der Ross are among those under investigation on charges linking them to Dawjee.

The Sunday Times was told by a senior police officer that a criminal charge against Van der Ross was opened at Parow police station, linking him criminally to Dawjee.

Colonel Elizabeth Perotto at the Parow police station denied that any such docket was opened.

The Sunday Times has the names of two other senior police officers in the province who are said to be under investigation.

Lamoer is being investigated for allegedly receiving "a number of payments" from Dawjee, the owner of several businesses, including Towbars King, Towbars Cape, and Towbar and Auto Cape.

The Sunday Times knows of at least one R20000 payment Dawjee made into Lamoer's bank account.

Dawjee, a Goodwood businessman, is a known Pagad (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs) member. He is described as one of the "most generous benefactors" of the police in the province. H is companies have fitted "countless police vehicles with towbars, radio holders and additional car paraphernalia".

Seven senior police officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Sunday Times that Dawjee allegedly:

Handed out several flat-screen plasma television sets to police officers at a Christmas party last year;

Donated the camera set installed outside the Parow police station;

Attends and sponsors police awards and prize-giving functions as well as year-end parties for the police;

Paid for "the Lala-room" - a victim-support room - at Bellville police station; and

Sponsored coffee mugs at the South African Police Service "Men for Change" function. Men for Change was formed as a police initiative about five years ago to get men to commit to gender equality.

"Dawjee is a generous man when it comes to the SAPS. He has given money to the SAPS for many years. In return, the police have an endless supply of cars that need to be fitted with towbars and radios and blue lights and other additional necessities. Dawjee gets the business.

"He is very close to a group of very senior police officers in the province. They're in and out of his business frequently. Most of those officers drive big BMWs. I don't know how they afford those cars," a senior police officer said.

The police refused to answer questions about whether Towbars Cape, one of Dawjee's businesses, has a contract with the SAPS in the Cape.

Lamoer is known among Western Cape police to be close to the national police commissioner and frequently acts as her adviser on policing matters.

The charge against Phiyega follows a crime intelligence recording of a conversation between her and Lamoer during which she allegedly warned him of the investigation into him.

The investigation into Dawjee and police officers, including Lamoer, has been going on since early last year.

The Sunday Times has learnt that it was a complaint laid by the Goodwood station commander, Colonel Hansia Asaram, that set in motion the sequence of events threatening to lay bare a problem festering in the police for many years.

"When Asaram was made the station commander at Goodwood, she stopped any and all sponsorships, donations, nods and winks with businessmen in the area - including from Dawjee.

"Dawjee has been on the community police forums in the section for many years and she sacked him. That's when all hell broke loose because her cluster commander, Van der Ross, tried to intimidate her. Asaram stood up to them," the Sunday Times was told by a senior police officer with knowledge of the criminal charges.

Asaram, who won the Station Commander of the Year award earlier this year, refused to speak to the Sunday Times.

Dawjee and Lamoer's telephones have been legally tapped by the crime intelligence service in the province since a formal and legal order to "trap" their telephone calls, called a trap and undercover operation, was obtained three or four months ago.

The order, also known as a section 72, is usually signed by a judge and was obtained after sufficient evidence was submitted that Lamoer and Dawjee, among others, were having an improper relationship.

It was during the legal monitoring of Lamoer and Dawjee's telephones that the police learnt of Phiyega tipping off Lamoer about the criminal investigation against him.

In a confusing scramble to explain himself, Lamoer then told Independent Newspapers that he had asked the police to investigate the allegations against him. He then told the Cape Times that he had "no knowledge of the investigation against him".

On the same day that charges against Phiyega were laid by the crime intelligence service, the national commissioner issued a statement via e-mail to "SAPS All E-Mail Users" - an e-mail sent nationally - claiming that opening a case against her (after she tipped off Lamoer about the criminal investigation) "is a lame attempt by certain individuals within crime intelligence to discredit me and derail the process of flushing out those within the SAPS who have no integrity ..."

A colleague of Lamoer said: "The problem is that this clique of senior policemen gamble thousands and thousands of rands. They're big gamblers and gamblers need cash. Dawjee has plenty of that. He and his friends in the police are regulars at Grand West."

Grand West casino, in Goodwood in Cape Town, refused to comment on whether Lamoer, Govender or Van der Ross were gold or platinum card holders at the casino.

Michael Farr, Sun International group general manager, said: "GrandWest treats any information about guests as confidential, so we can unfortunately not provide any information about any member of our Most Valued Guest loyalty programme."

The Sunday Times interviewed four different senior police officers who maintained that "Dawjee and Lamoer, Van der Ross and Govender, among other police officers, are part of the 'most valued guest' loyalty programme at Grand West".

The Hawks carrying the docket against the Cape Town police officers refused to comment to the Sunday Times, saying that Phiyega's office deals with "all questions on this investigation".

Lamoer initially agreed to an interview with the Sunday Times, but later cancelled.

Dawjee refused to take any of the many calls requesting comment or an interview.

"Mr Dawjee is a sick man and his doctor said he should not speak to anybody. The allegations against him are making him sicker and are having a terrible impact on his business," one of the employees at his towbar business said.

Van der Ross, who drives a white BMW with a "Cape Towbars" sticker in the rear window, said he "doesn't talk to you people".

Phiyega's spokesma n, Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale, referred questions to the office of the state attorney in Pretoria. I n a four-page letter, the state attorney told the Sunday Times: "In order to protect and ensure the integrity of our client's [SAPS] ongoing criminal investigation, we must unfortunately advise that it will severely compromise the ongoing criminal investigation in the event that the SAPS provide Ms Joubert with any answers to the questions posed."

Dr Kobus Meier, the state attorney, warned that "any publication of an article in the Sunday Times containing information that may compromise the criminal investigation will amount to a transgression of section 4(2) of the Protection of Information Act 84 of 1982."