Eight-month police investigation busts drug syndicate in four countries

2010-12-14 00:00

SEVEN suspects appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday in connection with an international drug smuggling syndicate.

Their arrest successfully ended an eight-month-long joint operation by members of the Pietermaritzburg Hawks, Pretoria crime intelligence and police in Canada, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates.

The operation saw 312 kg of pure cocaine, 72  000 Mandrax tablets and 11 luxury motor vehicles confiscated.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Johan Meeding said the operation started in April.

“… members of the Pietermaritzburg Hawks, in conjunction with Pretoria crime intelligence and police agencies from the Netherlands, UAE and Canada were in a joint investigation looking into the activities of internationally based drug syndicates.”

Meeding said that on November 17, a consignment of 312 kg of pure cocaine was intercepted at Durban harbour. “The cocaine was hidden among bags of rice in a container destined for Mozambique.”

The investigators secretly allowed the container to proceed to Gauteng, where they kept it under surveillance with the aim of arresting the members of the syndicate.

“On December 9, the containers were moved to a warehouse where seven suspects were arrested in a joint operation between Pietermaritzburg Hawks and crime intelligence unit of Pretoria,” said Meeding. During the operation in Pretoria seven luxury vehicles were confiscated .

Meeding said 72 000 Mandrax pills were found in the boot of one of the cars.

“In a follow-up operation in Newcastle a further four luxury vehicles were seized and the kingpin was apprehended together with three other suspects.”

He said police agencies in the Netherlands arrested three other suspected members of the syndicate. Police found 1 100 kg of hashish and €120 000 (about R1, 1 million) in their possession.

All the accused appeared in courts in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the Netherlands.

The seven who appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court were Nitin Patel of Britain; Mozambicans Jose Rodrigues, Ben Nuvunga and Cassmo Haramate; Peter Fernando, a dual citizen of South Africa and Sri Lanka; and South Africans Jabar Sheik and Mohamed Dawood.

Patel was earlier charged with dealing in drugs weighing two kilograms with a street value of R2 million in Johannesburg.

The case against Dawood was withdrawn pending further investigations.

The six suspects are still in police custody and the case was remanded to December 20 for a provisional hearing.

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