S. African police selling their uniforms to gangsters

South African policemen
South African policemen

Urgent action was needed to stop police uniforms from landing in the wrong hands, the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Cape Town heard on Monday.

Captain Cathline Japhta, of the police Tactical Response Team, told the court: “When we heard that a police officer was involved in the illegal sale of police uniforms, we needed to act with urgency.

“All we knew was that a police officer was selling police uniforms, but we had no idea of who he or she was,” she said.

She testified at the resumption of the trial involving police captain Esmareld Bailey, 44, on eight charges – one of corruption, another of the illegal possession of ammunition, a third involving the possession or use of drugs, and five of defeating the ends of justice.

She has pleaded not guilty, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg.

Questioned by prosecutor Xolile Jonas, Japhta told the court that her job entailed the prevention of crime, with the focus on drugs and gangsters.

She added: “We launch under-cover operations, in which we telephone people and pretend that we want to buy drugs from them.”

She said an informant told her in December 2011 that there was “someone wanting to sell police uniforms and firearms”.

“Because of the sensitivity of the information – it was alleged that the “someone” was a police officer – I passed on the information to our team’s intelligence officer, and then contacted the colonel in charge of undercover operations.

“Due to the urgency of the matter, I obtained electronic authority to launch such an operation.”

She said the operation involved a male police constable as the buyer, who was given R500 in R100 notes, which had been photocopied, with which to purchase a police uniform and ammunition.

The constable was taken to a petrol filling station in Brooklyn, where he was picked up by two other men in a white sedan, and taken to a block of flats.

She said she followed in an unmarked police vehicle, and she and the constable kept in contact via SMS messages.

One of the men in the white sedan, Waleed Diedericks, went up to the fifth floor of the complex, and returned carrying a red travel bag.

Soon afterwards, she received an SMS from the “buyer” that money and a uniform had exchanged hands.

Japhta told the court: “I moved quickly to Diedericks, and identified myself to him.

“The constable handed the red bag to me and said he had just paid R500 for the contents.

“I opened the bag, and it contained a police cap, two pairs of blue police trousers, a police shirt with a badge embroidered on it, an orange and yellow police reflector jacket and a small bank bag with ammunition.

“The constable pointed to Diedericks and said he had the money.”

Japhta said she was present when another police official removed the money from Diedericks’s trouser pocket.

She said she informed Hendricks that he was under arrest for selling a police uniform to undercover police officials.

Although she explained to Diedericks that he had no obligation to say anything, he said he had obtained the uniform from a police captain and insisted on taking them up to Bailey’s apartment.

Diedericks was himself sentenced last year for his part in the transaction, but the sentence was suspended on condition that he testify at Bailey’s trial, which he has already done. – Sapa