State capture witness accuses police minister Bheki Cele of receiving bribe

Police minister Bheki Cele. File photo.
Police minister Bheki Cele. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Crime intelligence officer Dhanajaya Naidoo told the state capture inquiry that he believes police minister Bheki Cele was bribed to protect corruption-accused intelligence officer Solomon Lazarus.

Naidoo, who is in witness protection, described a 2009 meeting at the home of Durban businessman Panganathan "Timmy" Marimuthu. Present at the meeting were Naidoo, Marimuthu, Lazarus and, later, Cele.

Cele was national police commissioner at the time.

"At the time, [Richard Mdluli] was appointed [as head of Crime Intelligence] … Lazarus was informed by Mdluli he was going to be transferred out of the secret service account division.

"There was resistance. [Lazarus] subsequently made arrangements for a meeting between himself and Cele. Marimuthu would be the go-to guy to facilitate this meeting," Naidoo said.

"There were several meetings held between Lazarus and Cele."

Lazarus was the finance officer in charge of Crime Intelligence's secret service account, which holds funds to pay for intelligence operations, vehicles and equipment. He, together with Mdluli and others, stand accused of using cash from the account to bankroll the purchase of luxury cars, overseas travel and accommodation.

Naidoo, who also benefited from the alleged looting of the account, said what he saw at the meeting between Lazarus and Cele led him to believe money had exchanged hands.

"Lazarus was waiting for Cele to have a meeting. Closer to the time Cele arrived, Lazarus told me it was not easy to organise a meeting with Cele. He made a call to another Crime Intelligence member to organise cash, which I assumed was to be paid over to Cele when he arrived at the meeting," Naidoo said.

"Lazarus was not aware I had cash with me, about R40,000, which I had taken from our Crime Intelligence office. I can’t remember what the advance was for. I informed him I had the cash and I handed him the money."

Naidoo said Lazarus moved to another part of the house to meet Cele.

"None of that money was returned to me. The assumption again, on my part, was that the money was handed over to Cele," he said.

Naidoo also described how he facilitated a 2009 China trip for Mdluli and his then wife, Lily.

"Prior to Mdluli flying to China with his wife, Lazarus told me Mdluli wants to take his wife to China and we must see how we can help him. Lazarus instructed me to make inquiries with respect to the air tickets. I went to Flight Centre in Menlyn Park. I made provisional bookings for Mdluli and his wife," he said.

"On November 3 2009, Lazarus called me to his office. When I got there, he had an envelope. Lazarus informed me there was R50,000 in the envelope. He said they managed to get a loan from Jan Venter, dealer principal of Atlantis Motors, a company through which CI purchases its vehicles."

Naidoo said he then withdrew another R50,000 from the secret service account. He used the money to pay for the flights, which amounted to about R86,000.

Mdluli allegedly received R10,000 from the remaining funds as cash for spending during his trip.

The commission previously heard that Mdluli and his then wife flew to China to visit their daughter, who was studying there.

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