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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Lamola backs NPA capacity to handle state capture crimes

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Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said the government has significantly expanded the capacity of the Investigating Directorate (ID) and institutionalised its operation as an integral part of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Lamola said the ID, set up in 2019, still needed to broaden its establishment and be capacitated as a permanent structure.

“I have already approved regulations that bestow peace officer powers on ID investigators. These regulations are significant as they provide investigators with the necessary powers to conduct their work prior to arresting suspects,” he said.

Lamola was responding to DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach who asked in a written question, steps his department has taken to strengthen the work of the NPA in state capture crimes.

Lamola said the ID, which deals with serious, high profile or complex corruption cases and offences arising from the State Capture Commission, has enrolled 18 new matters in the 2022-23 financial year.

“A total of 34 matters have been enrolled with 203 accused over the last four years. Thirteen new investigations were authorised, totalling 97 matters authorised over the last four years.”

He also said a significant success of the ID during the financial year was its contribution to the recovery of R2.5 billion, which was paid into the Criminal Asset Recovery Account.

“While it is acknowledged that there is still a long way to go, this represents a significant milestone in the recovery of assets that were illegally obtained through state capture,” he said.

The NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) secured freezing orders valued at R570 million as part of its strategy to pursue the monies stolen by the perpetrators of corruption and the enablers and facilitators of state capture.

“The finalisation of two high value corruption cases contributed to the AFU obtaining recoveries in corruption and related matters to the value of R2.83 billion during the financial year,” Lamola said.

A total of R10.2 billion has been frozen over the past four years and the NPA has recovered R2.55 billion in state capture cases alone, he added.

The minister stated that an Integrated Task Force was introduced early in 2022 to coordinate the response of the NPA and Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation to the recommendations of the Zondo Commission.

“The establishment of an Advisory Panel of experienced prosecutors and investigators to hear and advise on cases has been a very successful initiative, increasing the confidence of prosecutors and investigators dealing with complex matters,” he said.

The NPA’s establishment increased from 4 967 to 5 353 following additional funding from the National Treasury.

“The capacitation of specialised units, especially the SCCU and the ID, remained a priority as a response to the Zondo Commission. The filling of the aspirant prosecutor posts and newly appointed prosecutors allowed for more experienced staff to be promoted to specialised areas such as the ID, Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU) and Specialised Tax Units.”

The SCCU has dedicated Specialised Commercial Crime Courts in regions that did not have such courts.

“There are currently 22 dedicated courts throughout the country with a footprint of dedicated commercial crime courts in all provinces.

The minister said a special director of public prosecutions responsible for the general prosecutions and specialist tax component portfolios was appointed in the NPA in April 2022.

“The regional capacity of the specialist tax component has increased in the past financial year. The approved establishment throughout the country has grown to 100 posts, of which 85 are filled.”

Lamola added that training was an important aspect within the National Prosecutions Service and regional training coordinators were established within specialised prosecution area.

Cape Times

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