An intriguing Mail & Guardian investigation into the cloak and dagger world of state security reveals that after building a device that hacks into other devices, a Bloemfontein-based company is trying to get the State Security Agency (SSA) to pay it for the so-called ‘grabber’.

The sophisticated piece of technology is at the centre of more than R600m allegedly siphoned off from the SSA.

The device, which others in the agency refer to as ‘Warmonger’, is now sitting at ‘The Farm’, the SSA’s headquarters east of Pretoria. Nobody there knows how to operate it, according to the M&G, which says the device was acquired from Saber Industries in 2015 by the SSA as part of ‘Project: Clarity’.

There was no contract or any other paperwork. But the security agency paid only R14.5m of the R30m that the two parties had allegedly agreed on. The device can be used to locate and track all mobile phones that are switched on in a certain area.

News24 reported recently that the device had disappeared from ‘The Farm’ before the ANC elective conference and reappeared once the conference was over. The detailed report notes that Saber Industries is owned by Chin-Chao Chen and his son James (29). According to the M&G’s sources, James Chen is the only person who can operate the device.

He has also installed an access key, which means that people at the security agency are unable to access the information stored on the device.

It is said that after numerous failed attempts at trying to retrieve information the device automatically formats itself.

At the heart of the investigation are allegations of fraudulent invoices amounting to more than R600m, which were purported to be from Saber Industries. The family-run company even wrote a letter in July to the security agency, demanding the outstanding money.

The M&G, which says it has seen this correspondence and the replies, unpacks its investigation into the shenanigans shrouding the buying, selling and possible use of this sophisticated piece of equipment. It also notes the device was on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s radar regarding her office’s investigation of the so-called SARS ‘rogue unit’.

Full Mail & Guardian report