International review Investigation

Corruption-accused cops’ case sidetracked by arguments over cellphone records


This material belongs to: News24.

Cape Town – The corruption case against former Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer and four others in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday deviated into arguments over whether the defence is entitled to documents it believes the State is withholding.

The State, represented by prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer, said the defence wants, for example, the full version of cellphone records obtained in the course of the investigation against the accused, but can only have a redacted version.

Downer submitted that the State was under no obligation to hand over the full records, and said some of the information contained in them was privileged and related to other cases.

“Evidence might be privileged and exposes state investigation techniques, but just as much as you might like to use it, you can’t,” said Downer.

He said the defence had tried to get the same cellphone records as the State via a subpoena sent to cellphone service providers, and the State wants these set aside.

“The defence is trying to talk to the witnesses about what they know through a subpoena. They are not supposed to do this. Parties may not obtain statements or interfere with witnesses on the other side.”

“Hence an emergency call from Vodacom saying what on earth is going on? I have given you this information and now the defence wants this information?” said Downer.

Right to information

Salim Dawjee, Lamoer and three brigadiers – Darius van der Ross, Sharon Govender and her husband Colin Govender – face 109 charges of corruption, racketeering and money laundering involving R 1.6m.

Dawjee allegedly paid the police officials in exchange for “special favours”. Some of the charges they face relate to criminal activity around firearms and ammunition.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

However, Advocate William King SC, who is representing Dawjee, said the State could not just dictate how things are to be done, and rejected the claim that the defence was trying to get the redacted cellphone records.

“The defence has followed the letter of the law,” said King.

He said the accused just wanted the right to all the information needed to prepare his defence.

“That is exactly what the accused are trying to do,” he said.

He said the only reason the defence took issue over the cellphone records and wanted to get them through subpoenas, was because they discovered that certain documents had not been supplied to them.

King said they issued a subpoena to Vodacom and MTN and maintained it was not abuse of process.

The State wants the subpoenas to be set aside.

King also alleged that the affidavit to support the section 205 (of the Criminal Procedure Act) application for a warrant by the prosecution to get the cellphone records was not in the case docket.

It did emerge much later, but the defence is suspicious that it might have been prepared after the fact.

The case will continue on Wednesday.