Steinhoff still a priority investigation, says Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya
The Hawks have taken more than 200 witness statements and are doing everything possible to get the Steinhoff corruption case prosecuted in court.
Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya told parliament on Wednesday that they had “never relaxed” on the Steinhoff matter.
“When one looks at the content of the investigation that has already been put into that matter, there are more than 200 statements and those might also be indicative of the number of witnesses that we have engaged with to put together the investigation,” he said.
“Whenever the statutory requirements obligate some entities or companies to pay some fines and the like, it doesn't erase the criminal matter that we are pursuing. We shall still be pursuing the criminal matters,” said Lebeya.
He was appearing before parliament's public accounts watchdog Scopa alongside the heads of other law-enforcement agencies who make up the anti-corruption task team to talk about pending corruption cases from various government departments and entities.
He said the matter was among the top 10 cases being investigated by the Hawks.
ANC MP Mervyn Dirks had asked the task team about a perception of selective prosecutions.
Dirks wanted to know how the task team prioritised cases, saying there was an accusation in the public domain about selective prosecution. He claimed that a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) official previously told Scopa that the authority did not want to prosecute Steinhoff because it had to protect the investors' investments.
Lebeya explained that for a case to be prioritised, it had to be a corruption matter, and while some matters were national priority offences, they would not have the corruption element in them.
Monetary value, capacity of the alleged perpetrator (the position they held in society) and the age of the case were other considerations.
National director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi, who is also the co-chair of the task team, said they were acutely aware that they could be accused of being selective, targeting certain people and of being biased in their selection. She said they had adopted objective and “very carefully thought-through” criteria which guided them in terms of the prioritisation of cases.
“When you have so much to deal with and so few resources, you have to put your resources where you are going to make an impact,” she said.
“We have to be very targeted in taking the right cases, where it's a good investment in terms of our very limited resources.”
About Steinhoff, Batohi said the Hawks and the NPA had been working “very closely on this extremely complex case”.
“From the first day I took office, it has been on the agenda as a top-priority matter,” she said.
She said there had been no decision on it not being a priority case, but it still needed a lot of work and resources.
Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa urged law-enforcement agencies to not only make sure that justice was seen to be done, but that it was done.
Hlengwa said the matter remained a serious indictment on South African politics from every perspective.
“We want to see a concerted effort which pursues the Steinhoff matter to a logical legal conclusion, including but not limited to arrests and recoveries - particularly for the people who were directly affected by this kind of corruption,” he said.
“The Steinhoff cabal cannot get away scot-free because what that will do is entrench a perception that only the public sector receives attention,” he said.