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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Untangling the Judge Thulare judgment warning of cop collusion with gangsters

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    Nat Quinn

    A recent court judgment warns of alleged cop corruption linked to hitmen, the taxi industry and drug dealing, issues that police investigators had already flagged years ago. It outlines some of the rattling accusations and suggests police bosses have known about the problem for years.

    For more than a decade, there have been claims that cops in South Africa’s gang capital, the Western Cape, are colluding with gangsters.

    Now a recent court judgment outlines some of the rattling accusations and suggests police bosses have known about the problem for years.

    This is curious, though, because the South African Police Service (SAPS) only recently announced it is acting on the information.

    At the end of October it said it was studying the “serious and concerning” contents of Judge Daniel Thulare’s unprecedented judgment delivered in the Western Cape High Court on 17 October.

    On Friday, national police commissioner Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola said a senior officer was investigating the matter and “only very few” individuals, who were being identified, may have been involved in criminality.

    The judgment warns of alleged cop corruption linked to hitmen, the taxi industry and drug dealing, issues that police investigators had already flagged years ago.

    It also warns that the lives of prosecutors and state figures who clamp down on gangsters are at risk.

    Through analysing the state’s stance on gangs, gleaning details through interviews with sources conducted over several years, and pairing this with the judgment, DM168 can reveal a deadly trail underpinning this pivotal court matter.

    High-level accusations

    The case focuses on the Mobsters, a faction of the 28s gang. One of the accused in the case is a former policeman, Alfonso Cloete, who Thulare’s judgment alleged was recruited into the Mobsters and placed in the taxi industry where managers “were threatened by the gang to accept him, failing which they would be killed”.

    Cloete denied being a gangster. Thulare’s judgment said police investigators monitored him from 2011, which suggests that cop bosses have been aware of this matter, and the broader situation, since at least then. That year, 2011, is controversial in terms of the Western Cape’s gang scene. amaBhungane reported that back in May 2011, former president Jacob Zuma met with gangsters in Cape Town to try to garner support for upcoming elections. The ANC in the Western Cape denied it, yet suspicions to the contrary persisted in police circles.

    Prison murder plot

    Based on DM168 information, a series of assassinations is linked to the Mobsters matter that now forms the basis of Thulare’s judgment. In May 2010, a suspected Mobsters boss, McNolan Koordom, was murdered in Bishop Lavis, a suburb in Cape Town known as a 28s gang hotspot. Afterwards, there was fighting about who would head the Mobsters. This created tension, especially among two men, Mario Snell and Nathaniel Moses. And so, it was decided that Snell needed to be eliminated – drugs would be planted on him so that he could be arrested, jailed, then murdered behind bars. Moses allegedly colluded with a cop to see this plan through. Thulare’s judgment, without naming Snell, referred to this: “The policeman arrested the person at the specified date and place for drugs…

    “The person could not be killed in prison because of security challenges. It was decided that the person should be bailed out and killed after he was released on bail.”

    From left: George ‘Geweld’ Thomas, the alleged leader of the 28s gang. (Photo: Lulama Zenzile / Gallo Images / Die Burger); Former police colonel Chris Prinsloo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger); Anti-Gang Unit cop Ashley Tabisher. (Photo: Facebook); Suspected perlemoen poaching kingpin Russel Jacobs. (Photo: Facebook)


    After his release, Snell’s purported allies took him to a shebeen in Cape Town, where they killed him – Thulare’s judgment alleged this was on the overall instruction of a jailed 28s gang boss, George “Geweld” Thomas, who wielded influence over the Mobsters. This was apparently how Snell came to be murdered in August 2011. After Snell’s killing, Moses was suspected of heading the Mobsters. But not for long – he was shot dead in the Cape Town suburb of Strand in January 2016.

    Years of collusion claims

    Later that year, reports surfaced in the media that cops may have been involved in his killing – an affidavit suggested this – and were working with 28s gangsters. This is another sign that police bosses were aware of what was happening.

    The saga becomes even murkier because former Western Cape policeman Jeremy Vearey, who cracked down on gangs, once claimed that cop colleagues were colluding with a 28s gangster to discredit him and were peddling rumours that he was involved in the Moses murder. Another cop, Charl Kinnear, later told a Cape Town court that Vearey was not among those flagged for arrest in the case – Kinnear himself was assassinated in September 2020.

    Meanwhile, about a year after Moses was killed, Russel Jacobs, a suspected perlemoen poaching kingpin who some sources believed was a police informant and channelling guns to Moses, was shot in the Cape Town suburb of Blue Downs in early 2017. He died the next day. Unsettling stories surfaced after the Moses and Jacobs murders: that the Mobsters and 28s had corrupt cops – possibly even prosecutors – on their side and that some police were funnelling firearms to the gangs.


    Army ammunition

    Thulare’s judgment now adds weight to those theories. It is unprecedented because it is the first time a judge has detailed cop and gang collusion accusations in-depth in a public document.

    Among the many allegations is that “members of the army” were involved “in selling arms and ammunition to the [Mobsters] gang … used in … killings, rape and robbery”. It also warns of gangsters “interfering with … the independence of judicial officers”. Another damning section says: “The evidence suggests that the senior management of the SAPS in the province has been penetrated to the extent that the [28s] gang has access to the table where the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in the Western Cape sits with his senior managers and lead[s] them in the study of crime, [and] develop[s] crime prevention strategies…

    “This includes … access to … reports by specialised units like the Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) and Crime Intelligence, to the Provincial Commissioner.”

    The Anti-Gang Unit and the army patrol the crime hotspots in Lavender Hill, Cape Town. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

    Spreading cop secrets

    Thulare’s judgment explained that AGU and Crime Intelligence officers reported cases and projects to the provincial commissioner in the presence of station, section and sector commanders.

    “Everyone in that meeting then came to know which projects the Specialised Units were investigating against which gangs,” the judgment alleged.

    “Some in the gangs were agents for Crime Intelligence, the AGU and the gangs.

    “They would supply information to the gangs about the police activities and also supply the police with information about gang activity.”

    The AGU was launched in the Western Cape in 2018. DM168 previously reported that it was understood that a sensitive document detailing which cops were in the AGU was leaked from within police ranks. This meant that gang suspects could potentially see exactly who would be targeting them.

    Dual investigations

    Thulare’s judgment, meanwhile, has sparked two investigations – one within the SAPS and another that Western Cape Premier Alan Winde ordered the province’s police ombud to conduct. This week, Winde announced that the ombud’s investigation revealed that the contents of the judgment were probably true and a fragment of a much broader problem.

    “What is clear is that this infiltration likely extends far beyond this particular case, and also that dangerous forces are at play here,” he said.

    DM168 sent a query about this to the Western Cape police but did not receive a response in time for publication. Thulare’s judgment was against the former cop Alfonso Cloete and another accused, Elcardo Adams, who knew each other via the taxi industry. They were accused of various crimes, including murder, but denied and disputed various allegations against them. They unsuccessfully tried to get a decision, that they should not be released on bail, overturned, resulting in Thulare’s judgment. Adams was accused of being the head of the Mobsters, which he denied.

    Taxi industry intimidation

    According to Thulare’s judgment, Cloete was a cop who (it was not specified when) was “dismissed … for bringing the police into disrepute after he was arrested for … intimidation charges” relating to the taxi industry. Thulare’s judgment alleged: “As a known police official, it was not easy for people to suspect him. [Cloete] and his vehicle were also used to transport drugs.

    “[His] wife had five vehicles registered under her name. Three were her vehicles and the other two belonged to [his] relatives, who could not register the vehicles in their names as they worked for government and could not run taxi businesses.”

    Another part of the judgment alleged the Mobsters forced “the taxi business to admit its members into … routes at [gunpoint]”.

    Assassinated witnesses

    An initial police project was run against the Mobsters when Moses was still alive – this would have been prior to 2016. During that project already, certain cops were flagged as working with the gang. Those cops were not named in court because they were yet to be charged.

    Thulare’s judgment alleged “[they] were working at [the Cape Town suburb of] Kleinvlei and were on the payroll of the Mobsters gang”. Three of nine Section 204 witnesses (who became witnesses for the State, thereby possibly indemnifying themselves from prosecution) were killed while the first police project was running.

    “The Mobsters gang came to know that the [three] made statements to the police,” Thulare’s judgment said.

    “The gang called them traitors and scavengers. They were killed even before the cases were enrolled.”

    Info leaks and drug deliveries

    Thulare’s judgment provided some clues as to who the other implicated police officers in the case were. It said Adams denied allegations, stemming from another suspect simply referred to as V, “that he had members of the SAPS helping the Mobsters with information”.

    The judgment alleged: “V mentioned Van Schalkwyk at Mfuleni, Geduld at Blue Downs, who even used to transport drugs with the police truck to prison, and a Captain at Beaufort West, known as Baard.”

    It was not clear what had happened to those officers. DM168

    Ralph Stanfield. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger)

    Claims that cops are in gangsters’ pockets

    • In 2011, cops start monitoring Alfonso Cloete, a Western Cape police officer, as it is suspected the Mobsters, a faction of the 28s gang, have recruited him. He later denies being a gangster.
    • Suspected 28s boss Ralph Stanfield is arrested in 2014, along with two relatives and three Central Firearm Registry police officers. The case, based on allegations that police created fraudulent firearm licences for criminals, is provisionally withdrawn and later reinstated.
    • At the start of 2016, suspected ­Mobsters boss Nathaniel Moses is ­murdered in Cape Town. Stories ­surface that corrupt cops are working with the Mobsters.
    • In mid-2016, former police colonel Chris Prinsloo pleads guilty to selling about 2,000 firearms that were meant to have been destroyed, allegedly to a businessman accused of smuggling them to Western Cape gangsters.
    • At the end of 2018, Anti-Gang Unit cop Charl Kinnear complains to bosses that certain police officers in the Western Cape, some with links to Crime Intelligence, are working to frame him and some of his colleagues, and that some are aligned to an organised crime suspect, Nafiz Modack. (The Independent Police Investigative Directorate later finds Kinnear’s complaints are valid.)
    • In September 2020, Kinnear, also investigating allegations that cops are fraudulently creating gun licences for suspects, is assassinated outside his Cape Town home. Among those arrested in connection with his murder are Modack and a colleague of Kinnear’s, Anti-Gang Unit cop Ashley Tabisher.
    • An October 2022 high court judgment warns that evidence suggests 28s gangsters have infiltrated the Western Cape’s cops, even at management level. Investigations are launched. DM

    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Untangling the Judge Thulare… (dailymaverick.co.za)

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