What the experts say...
ROBERT CAMERON-ELLIS says there are instances where dedicated white-collar crime courts have helped, but it’s not enough. He says stricter regulations – such as the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, asset forfeiture legislation, the Protected Disclosure Act, the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act and FICA – are definitely a step up, but you still need the skill and dedication to enforce legislation.
“Though commercial prosecutors have improved in skill over the past 10 years there’s a continuous drain on those skilled resources and we have to keep on replenishing them.”
Steven Powell says it’s a pity the Scorpions were abolished. “They had such a high strike rate. The problem with the Hawks is that SA’s prosecution authorities aren’t involved in the process, as with the Scorpions, so we’ve taken a step back.”
Another worrying issue for Powell is that National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane plans to make SA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), led by Willie Hofmeyr, and three other specialised units answer directly to provincial directors of prosecution, who in turn report to Simelane. Hofmeyr was also given an ultimatum to choose between his twin posts as head of both the AFU and the Special Investigations Unit (SUI).
Commentators have said Simelane’s plans sought to weaken the specialised units and to undermine their independence.
Philip Zwart says there’s a great tendency for prosecutors to plea bargain commercial crimes and too many people are allowed to only pay a fine and walk away. “Authorities need to look at that.”