Pikoli 'totally shocked' at SARS spying revelations

24 May 2015 - 02:00 By STEPHAN HOFSTATTER, PIET RAMPEDI and MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA


The National Prosecuting Authority this week failed to explain why it hired members of the South African Revenue Service's rogue spy unit to "upgrade security" at its head office. Last week, the Sunday Times revealed that rogue unit members Andries "Skollie" Janse van Rensburg and Helgard Lombard planted bugs in the NPA offices in 2007.At the time, the Scorpions, which fell under the NPA, were investigating Jacob Zuma - who became president two years later - and former police chief Jackie Selebi for corruption.In an affidavit submitted to the Hawks last week, Lombard said he had been instructed to monitor conversations about the Selebi case. He said the spying operation, Project Sunday Evenings, was authorised by former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay.story_article_left1Last week, the NPA confirmed it had paid the rogue unit more than R900,000 for "security upgrades" to the offices of Scorpions members Leonard McCarthy and Gerrie Nel, the then NPA head Vusi Pikoli, "and another official".Pikoli has denied any knowledge of recording devices placed in his office."I am totally shocked, this is a new revelation. We were always suspicious that we were illegally bugged at the time as we were investigating the police commissioner. We expected crime intelligence to be doing it and not some rogue elements from SARS, of all places," Pikoli said.Asked why the NPA had not asked a state security agency to plant the recording devices, if proper procurement processes had been followed, and why Lombard had been paid cash for the job, spokesman Velekhaya Mgobhozi said: "The NPA has no comment."The exact motives behind Project Sunday Evenings remain unclear.A source familiar with the NPA's version of events said the Scorpions had wanted to install countersurveillance equipment in their offices because they believed crime intelligence and NPA officials loyal to Selebi were monitoring them and filching sensitive documents.A decision was taken to install dial-in cameras in their offices but "no recording equipment", the source said.A Scorpions official who knew Van Rensburg and former SARS head of strategy Pete Richer promised to use his "connections" to secure the NPA offices.The official, working with Nel and former Scorpions lead investigator Andrew Leask, sealed the deal "probably with Ivan's knowledge".story_article_right2Pillay would only say: "SARS legislation does not allow me to comment."Van Rensburg was asked to arrange cameras discreetly because several Scorpions members had worked with him when he was at the National Intelligence Agency."They didn't just install cameras but installed recording equipment at the same time," the source said.The NPA officials were "never aware" that Van Rensburg had used the opportunity to bug the NPA offices until they read about it in the Sunday Times last week.The source said money paid to Lombard for the equipment came from the Scorpions. "Like the police had funds for intelligence operations, the [Scorpions] also had funds for intelligence operations."The source said SARS and the NPA had previously co-operated but their relationship broke down over the Scorpions investigations into "ANC comrades", particularly Selebi, Zuma and Schabir Shaik."Ivan was getting pissed off with the Scorpions," the source said. "Ivan at the time was close to Zuma and was [Selebi's] close former comrade from exile."

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