‘ZILLE’S SPY’ TO FACE THE MUSIC
When his trial starts later this month, Paul Scheepers – the man accused of spying on the ANC on behalf of Premier Helen Zille – will face 26 charges for tapping the phones of South Africans and smuggling illegal spy gadgets into the country.
The suspended former SA Police Service (SAPS) crime intelligence boss is accused of managing an unlawful private spy business on the side, and using his privileges as a police officer to obtain confidential cellphone records and hack into people’s phones.
The trial will play out against a murky web of political fighting and allegations of top-level corruption within police ranks.
In the run-up to the court appearance, City Press has seen the charge sheet detailing the former policeman’s alleged lies in court and his dodgy deals as a private investigator for surveillance firm Eagle Eye Solutions, which he formed while employed by the SAPS in 2003.
The charge sheet states: “The accused applied to the SAPS to be permitted to perform private remunerative work ... These applications were not approved due to a conflict of interest.
“In his application to perform private remunerative work, he states that the type of business he conducts is ‘audio restoration, cellphone forensics, building of tracking units, service and sales of software in respect of cellphones’.”
But Scheepers allegedly continued his private spying. It is claimed that over five years, he lied to various courts, including the Bellville Magistrates’ Court, to obtain “205 subpoenas” that were required, should police officers want to access people’s intimate cellphone and text messages.
The court document has named at least 14 South Africans who had their private correspondence accessed by Scheepers without their knowledge, through an alleged fraudulent application and for purposes that were not police related.
The list includes Cape Town lawyers George van Niekerk, Willem van der Colff and Francois van Zyl, a senior counsel at the Cape Bar who represented the British murder accused Shrien Dewani.
According to the court documents, Scheepers told the Bellville Magistrates’ Court the three men “are involved in the commission of armed robbery and ATM bombings”, and he required their cellphone records for investigation.
This week, Van Zyl told City Press he had no idea why his records were hacked. “I can’t really comment because the way I see it, I am a state witness. But honestly, I don’t know why it was done,” said Van Zyl.
Scheepers also allegedly accessed the records of police colleagues Constable Mkhuseli Ngqiyana, from Cape Town, and Brigadier Anand Pillay, the police commissioner of the African Union Mission in Somalia, who at present lives in Mogadishu.
Furthermore, the court documents state that Scheepers smuggled a surveillance gadget called the IMSI Grabber into South Africa.
Made by a British forensic company, the IMSI Grabber “allows the user to grab IMSIs [International Mobile Subscriber Identity numbers – a service provider’s unique identity number associated with a user’s SIM card) without the knowledge of the user”, the document states.
In 2010 Scheepers sold an IMSI Grabber to another private investigator, George Thomas of SBV Solutions in Johannesburg, who had it installed in his Toyota Fortuner.
Scheepers (44) was arrested on May 8 last year in Cape Town and released on R20 000 bail. He missed his first court appearance because of “serious depression”, his lawyer Sageer Pansari said.
This week Pansari would not disclose whether Scheepers’ had improved or not.
In earlier court papers, Scheepers alleged that there were “ulterior purposes” for his arrest and that he was in possession of sensitive information related to high-level police corruption.
In the documents, he noted that he knew of an officer who “regularly attends meetings with very well-known druglords and criminal-gang bosses in the Western Cape”.
In November, the ANC in the Western Cape called for Zille to be impeached for allegedly having contracted Scheepers to spy on them.
At the time the party laid charges at the Cape Town Central Police Station against Zille for “employing a private covert intelligence investigator to execute illegal communications surveillance work on state land and property”.
Zille responded that Scheepers had been contracted to debug the Western Cape legislature’s phones in 2010. “I saw Scheepers once, briefly, when I handed him my cellphone. He handed it back to my secretary afterwards. I never once discussed spying or surveillance with him, and that was never his brief,” she wrote in her newsletter.
Michael Mpofu, Zille’s spokesperson, added that in the tender application process, Eagle Eye Solutions had not disclosed the company’s director was an SAPS officer. “The company was hired for one-off debugging of cellphones in 2010 after the then National Intelligence Agency failed to reassure our Cabinet that none of its members was under surveillance,” he said.
According to Mpofu, Zille did not have any involvement in this procurement process.
The charge sheet against Scheepers notes that in May 2010 Eagle Eye Solutions was contracted by the Western Cape legislature to “debug cellphones, and conduct cellphone encryption and SIM card encryption”. He was paid R125 450 for the services. Scheepers’ trial will start at the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville on June 28.
IN THE DOCK Paul Scheepers