“Dirty tricks” place question mark over Boeremag trial
A controversial police general headed the crime intelligence unit’s dirty tricks campaign to plant evidence and evesdrop on the Boeremag treason accused and their lawyers, a former officer claims in sworn statement.
The statement claims General Mark Hankel specially flew to America to purchase the bugging devices which were used to unlawfully monitor the conversations between the accused and their legal teams.
The revelations of Deon Loots, a former captain in the crime intelligence unit, about the alleged police conspiracy to frame the Boeremag plotters were first broken by Media24 Investigations on October 7.
But Loots’ affidavit – which he has confirmed – goes further and names individual officers which he charges are at the centre of the conspiracy.
His statements are separately supported by other affidavits by former officers which are in the possession of a Pretoria attorney.
If his claims are true it could lead to the Boeremag trial – the longest, at nine years, in South African history and which cost more than R100m – being declared a mistrial.
Loots, who made his statement in August, has finvestigated the Boeremag for years and was also the handler of the main agent who infiltrated the organisation.
Constitutional expert Prof Pierre de Vos said Loots’ allegations could result in the trial being declared null and void and having to be heard from scratch again.
Twenty Boeremag members were found guilty of high treason in July and August. The trial will re-commence in January next year when they could be sentenced to life behind bars.
Hankel made news headlines last year when he headed the crime intelligence unit for a short while after Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli was suspended.
Mdluli appointed family members as senior officers in the unit and bought luxury vehicles for himself with money from the secret fund, according to statements by investigators.
It has also been reported that in 2002 Hankel failed two polygraph tests for his security clearance. He denies it.
This was during the period when Hankel headed the investigation of the Boeremag project.
Loots was married to an officer who also worked on the right wing investigation and who was Hankel’s right-hand.
In his statement Loots identified a number of police officers whom he claimed worked under Hankel and were responsible for manipulating the investigation.
“The Boeremag was driven, managed, orchestrated and all the planning had been done by these [crime intelligenceï members,” said Loots.
He said he had been extremely upset by the “provocation role” played by the police.
“Innocent people had been inflamed, used and compromised. I had nowhere to complain as the top structure of police intelligence drove and managed these things,” Loots said.
Loots said evidence had been fabricated by crime intelligence in order to “make things look much worse.”
He said police officers told their agent to organise right-wing meetings.
They were instructed what to say at the meetings which would inflame Boeremag members.
“I told Hankel continuously that they were busy inciting a crime hoping to involve innocent people. This was laughed away. They were obsessed with the idea to involve as many right wingers as possible,” Loots charged.
Loots said the police wanted to know what was discussed between the accused and their legal teams, so that they could counter the defence.
He claimed Hankel flew to America to buy the latest in phone hacking and video equipment.
This was allegedly planted in the cells of the accused. Similar equipment was also planted in the consultation rooms where the accused consulted with their legal teams, he claimed.
Loots said the visual and audio recordings were beamed to the crime intelligence head office in Erasmuskloof where a so-called “war room” had been established which contained monitors and loudspeakers.
“I personally from time to time watched videos of the accused in their cells. Hankel and others made jokes and laughed. From the start the trial was never fair,” said Loots.
He claimed none of the witnesses for the prosecution ever drew up their own statements and that police wrote them so that they corroborated each other.
“Thereafter it was returned to the witnesses for it to be signed. They (the witnesses) had to learn it off by heard like parrots,” he said.
Hankel this week said that he was not allowed to talk to the media.
The police’s national spokesperson, Colonel Tummi Shai, undertook to respond to the allegations but at the time of going to press she had not responded.
The police also undertook to respond to the allegations aired in Rapport last week and did not reply then either.