CAPE TOWN – Major-General Andre Lincoln testified in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday that senior police officials were intent on discrediting him and his investigation into Mafia kingpin Vito Palazollo when they charged him with a string of fraud charges in 1997.
It was the second day of his civil trial in which he is claiming R15 million in damages for the “malicious” investigations initiated against him and the ultimate prosecution against him when he was head of the Presidential Investigation Task Unit (PITU).
In 2003, he was convicted on 17 of the 47 charges, and sentenced to nine years behind bars. But on appeal in 2009 in the Western Cape High Court before Judge Jeanette Traverso he was acquitted on all charges.
She concluded that no fraud had been committed, and that the case had instead been about backstabbing and political rivalry.
He was reinstated in a lower level position, but his attempts to claim backpay were met with resistance, prompting this civil claim against the police minister.
On Tuesday, Lincoln told the Western Cape High Court that he travelled with Palazollo to Angola in May 1997 at Palazollo’s invitation. “He was going to Angola and would be concluding deals. He invited me to go at his expense.
“At the time Palazollo did not know I was investigating him.”
Lincoln testified that he got permission for the trip from National Police Commissioner at the time, George Fivaz, as well as safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi.
But Mufamadi wanted the police to pay for the trip and not Palazollo. “There was a formal application for R16,000 which was approved by the national commissioner and Mufamadi.”
Lincoln said the trip cost about R12,000 and upon their return to Cape Town, he handed the money over to Palazollo’s secretary.
When fraud charges were instigated against Lincoln, this incident related to count 39 and the State called Palazollo to testify against Lincoln.
Lincoln had spent months infiltrating the criminal underworld in a bid to get information and had been spending time with Palazollo and others at Cape Town nightclubs and restaurants. Lincoln told the court that Palazollo believed he was his friend.
But he testified that police sent two people, including the head of legal services, to Cape Town from Johannesburg to convince Palazollo to testify against him.
“Palazollo made it quite clear that I had paid him back. That was the crux of his evidence. Only after meeting with those two people, when he was convinced I was not his friend, did he change his evidence.”
Lincoln believes the police’s intention was to discedit him and the investigation into Palazollo and his alleged corrupt relationships with senior policemen, as well as a minister.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Intrigue”, stemmed from a report handed to Lincoln in 1995 that contained allegations against Vito Palazollo, the alleged sixth most powerful member of the Italian Mafia at the time.
The report claimed that Palazollo had connections with senior police officers, a minister and underground criminals.
The report was taken to President Nelson Mandela who decided to create the Presidential Investigation Task Unit to investigate the allegations. Lincoln was appointed as its head and would oversee “Operation Intrigue”. He would report to Mandela, then deputy president Thabo Mbeki and safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lincoln also testified about a drunk driving charge that formed part of the 47 charges against him in 1997.
He told the court he had smashed into two vehicles in Higgovale early on a Sunday morning in June after spending most of the night at a club with people who were targets of his investigation. “An animal ran across the road and I swerved. I had worked almost the entire night.”
He called a police captain to come to the scene, but when he could not take the pain in his head anymore, he told the court he returned to his house “about a kilometre up the road”.
His wife called the family doctor who advised him to go for x-rays at the hospital.
Lincoln said the doctor who testified at his trial said that in his clinical opinion Lincoln had been concussed, shocked and confused, but not intoxicated. But Lincoln told the court the prosecutor changed the doctor’s statement.
“Numerous witnesses were called to testify against me. I would say it was overkill for this kind of charge.”
– African News Agency (ANA)