Sam 'Mshengu' Chabalala was nabbed after Hawks set up a trap

17 February 2020 - 09:29
By Tankiso Makhetha

It took two weeks for the Hawks to arrest flamboyant businessman Sam "Mshengu" Chabalala on new charges of corruption after he allegedly offered a R120,000 bribe to a police officer to release his vehicle and make his case disappear.

Chabalala appeared in the Middelburg magistrate's court in Mpumalanga on Friday on a charge of corruption for attempting to bribe a police officer. He was out on R200,000 bail on corruption-related charges at the time of his arrest at a hotel in Mbombela on Thursday.

A source close to the investigations revealed that a trap to apprehend Chabalala in Mbombela was set after he attempted to bribe an officer to have his acid-yellow Mercedes Benz bakki e with registration number "SAM 26 MP" returned to him.

The car was impounded by police when he was arrested on corruption charges for allegedly bribing a department of home affairs official last year.

Chabalala allegedly paid a top level officer R50,000 to have the car returned to him.

"This guy thinks he can get whatever he wants because he has money. Everyone knows that this matter has attracted a lot of media attention because of who he is. Nobody is willing to put their careers on the line because of him," said the source.

He said Chabalala approached the officer two weeks ago but instead of falling for it, the official reported the matter to his superiors.

"The officer informed his superiors that Mshengu approached him and offered him R50,000 for his car and R70,000 for his docket (on the home affairs case) to disappear," he said.

"The officer set up a meeting at a hotel in Mbombela with Mshengu where the transaction would happen.

"They bugged the room and made sure there was video recording as well, so there was no room for mistakes.

"Mshengu was recorded counting the money. That's when they pounced on him and arrested him for corruption," he said.

The source said Chabalala would also be investigated for contravening his bail conditions after he was arrested in Mbombela, two hours away from Bethal.

Hawks spokesperson Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi said processes to forfeit the R120,000 and the luxury vehicle the suspect was utilising during the commission of the crime are already underway.

The owner of Sam Holdings seemed despondent when told he would have to wait until Friday for his bail application to be heard.

His lawyer, Hlau Maluleka, requested for Chabalala to be kept in custody at the Middelburg police station in order for him to be able to carry out consultations.

In a separate matter, which led to his initial arrest in September 2019, Chabalala was granted bail in the Witbank magistrate's court where he is facing charges of corruption, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, illegal entry, departing and remaining in the borders of South Africa, and providing false information to be granted entry into the country.

At the time, magistrate Mdumiseni Mavuso said the state's allegations that Chabalala was a dangerous individual could not be proven.

He was arrested by the Hawks' serious commercial crime investigation team at an eatery in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, after he allegedly paid home affairs officials a bribe to stop a probe into how he obtained his South African citizenship.

For this matter, he is expected back in court on March 5. He is expected to apply for bail in the new case this week.

Mshengu, as he is popularly known, shot to national prominence in July 2019 when he took a 72-car convoy to the annual Durban July horse racing event.

Pictures of his convoy of expensive cars, most with personalised plates with the name "SAM" went viral.