The informant, who exposed several high-profile names in the local diamond industry during one of the biggest illicit diamond busts in South African history, has threatened to compromise the entire case unless he is paid the millions reportedly promised to him by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks).
Nearly 30 suspects, including several prominent local business owners, were arrested in August 2014 after the Hawks, backed by heavily-armed Special Task Force and Tactical Response Team members, raided their homes, businesses and diamond dealerships.
Together they paid roughly R4.5 million in bail.
The trial involving 20 of the accused, who are facing charges of illegal diamond dealing, possession and sale of unpolished diamonds, money laundering and racketeering, is scheduled to get under way in the Northern Cape High Court later this month.
It is alleged that, through the use of an undercover agent (the informant), numerous unlawful transactions involving uncut diamonds took place throughout South Africa, and specifically in Kimberley.
The informant is reportedly being considered as the State’s key witness in the case.
He, together with his family, was taken into the police’s witness programme shortly after the arrests.
However, earlier this week the man entered what he dubbed “the red zone” (Kimberley), to exclusively speak to the DFA about his plans to “blow the case wide open and further seriously compromise the State’s case against the accused by possibly refusing to testify” if the Hawks do not make a payment of R4 million to him before the trial gets under way.
The informant said he had spent a year of his life working on the case and had only received R1 million out of the R5 million his “handler” had promised to him after the arrests.
“They (the Hawks) are now saying that I will only receive the rest of my compensation after the trial has been completed,” he said.
“However, I am currently left with nothing, as the first R1 million was used to replace valuables stolen from my home during the few months we were in witness protection,” he added.
He said that he made the decision to leave the witness protection programme after only a few months as a result of the “dismal conditions” his family had to endure.
He further said that while he was single-handedly responsible for the implication and arrests of all the accused, the Hawks had now turned their backs on him, after they had “got what they wanted”.
“I fear for my life and do not need the money for myself, but for my wife and children in the event that something happens to me before the trial is finished. I have received threatening phone calls, random cars often follow me and I am constantly being watched.
“Considering all the high-profile millionaires and billionaires I exposed, I really feel that I might be killed before I make it to the witness stand – and in that case, my wife and children will be left with nothing,” he stated.
The man further said that the only leverage he had on the Hawks was the evidence he was expected to produce in court.
“I went into this project wholeheartedly on a trust basis, but now it seems as if the Hawks have broken that trust and I will do the same if necessary,” he said, implying that he might refuse to give evidence in court.
The man concluded by saying that that he was ready to “blow the case wide open” and “expose several more suspects”, if his compensation was not paid soon.
Hawks spokesman, Lieutenant Philani Nkwalase, on confirmed that any compensation would only be paid after an informant had testified in court and the case was finalised.
He said that an exception had been made in this man’s case where the claim had been submitted before the conclusion of the case.
Nkwalase added that the man and his family had been placed in witness protection after the arrests had been made, but that they (the family) had decided, on their own consideration, to leave the programme.
“It was with great consideration for him and his family that a decision was made to submit a claim before the case was finalised in court,” Nkwalase said, adding however that they were not at liberty to disclose the exact amount received “for security reasons”.
“It is not a norm, in terms of our policies regarding payment of informers, to determine the amount to be paid for the provision of particular information to the police, unless the informant was responding to a reward which was already publicised and that is then paid on fulfilment of the applicable terms and conditions.
“In this particular case, it appears that the informant had initially agreed to be placed in the witness protection programme and later reneged from that arrangement. It is therefore highly probable that this was one of the considerations in arriving at the amount to be paid.”
Nkwalase added that the informant’s safety and that of his family, his further non-participation in the witness protection programme, as well as the submission of the claim had been discussed with him during a meeting chaired by the former DPCI provincial head.
“During this meeting it was clearly stated to him that any other form of informer’s compensation would only be submitted after he has testified and the case has been finalised, as is the norm when dealing with diamond cases,” he said.
Nkwalase concluded by saying that while it was “of great concern and regrettable” that the man would now be “exposing himself as a police informant”, the Hawks welcomed any information that could expose more role-players in the alleged crimes committed.
In another twist, several of the accused yesterday claimed the informant had also apparently tried to make contact with them, but that they had been advised by their legal representatives not to talk to him.
During the accused’s first court appearance, several of them indicated that they knew the “undercover agent” who was planted to sell the stones.
“He is well-known and dealers knew that he was not to be trusted. Most of the accused are prominent figures in the diamond industry and would never take the risk of dealing with this man,” some of them said.
Some of them also indicated yesterday that their legal representatives were in the process of gathering information regarding the informant’s history, which was expected to “seriously discredit him as a witness”.
“He (the informant) is up against some of the highest-paid legal representatives in South Africa and does not stand a chance.”