Former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli and his two co-accused, Heine Barnard and now Solomon Lazarus, don’t have long to wait until they go on trial.
However, South Africans may have to wait until the trial begins in August to know the crimes for which the trio has to answer. According to media reports, the charge sheet was updated and then embargoed, by order of the Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria.
This follows an application by Mdluli’s lawyer to keep knowledge of the charges away from the public eye – an application that Magistrate Martin Van Wyk upheld, with the apparent intention of protecting the identities of undercover agents named in it.
The charges have been laid in terms of the Combating of Organised Crime Activities Act. It is understood that they relate to the defrauding of a secret reserve fund for personal gain and, media reports say, the sheet is over 60 pages long.
Former policeman Solomon Lazarus also appeared in the court, where he was charged with five counts of corruption and one of theft relating to activities while he was in the crime intelligence division. His case has been joined to that of Mdluli and Barnard.
The case was postponed to 6 July for the finalisation of further matters, ahead of the trial date of 17 to 19 August. The trial will be heard in the Johannesburg high court.
A slippery customer
Corruption Watch has followed the Richard Mdluli case since early 2012.
The organisation, together with Social Justice Coalition, had planned to intervene as a co-applicant after lobby group Freedom Under Law (FUL) opened a case in June 2012. Here it challenged the decisions taken to withdraw the various criminal and disciplinary charges against Mdluli, including the withdrawal of corruption charges.
The two co-applicants later withdrew their application, fearing that it would cause delays.
For years Mdluli, the former head of police crime intelligence, has evaded justice relating to charges of, among others, murder, attempted murder, assault, corruption and money laundering.
The Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in April 2014 that the corruption and fraud charges must proceed. The appeal, by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), was made in response to a September 2013 judgment in the Pretoria High Court, which held that the criminal charges against Mdluli must be reinstated, and that the disciplinary case against him must also resume. The NPA had contested the judgment, but lost the appeal.