Cops bust ‘stash house’ used by thieves

2015-06-26 11:52
Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese and acting Pietermaritzburg station commander Colonel Kenneth Shezi with the recovered stolen bicycles.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese and acting Pietermaritzburg station commander Colonel Kenneth Shezi with the recovered stolen bicycles. (Jonathan Burton)

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ANOTHER breakthrough was made into the “highly organised” bike racket that is plaguing city residents when three men were arrested on Tuesday.

Thirteen bicycles and other items were found on their property when it was raided by police.

Members of the Pietermaritzburg visible policing (Vispol) unit, Constables Heyne, Naidoo and Bhengu, were tipped off by informants about a backyard storage shed in Prince Alfred Street that was being used to stash suspected stolen items.

When police searched the property, they found a motorbike, 13 bicycles of different values, tyres, wheelbarrows, computer equipment, a television set and mag wheels.

According to Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese, three men on the property at the time of the raid could not account or provide receipts for the items, which are believed to be valued at about R40 000.

The arrests have now given police valuable insight into what they describe as a “highly organised” bike racket in the city. According to Ngobese, the three men are believed to be “transporters” who use residential properties to store stolen items.

According to a police source, this syndicate operates like a supply business for countries bordering South Africa. Orders are placed for items ranging from bicycles, wheelchairs, electronics and other household equipment by residents in surrounding countries like Malawi, Mozambique and Lesotho.

Thieves then steal these items through common burglaries and robberies and store them at “stash houses”, which police now believe are residential properties in the city.

Transporters then wrap the items and charge a nominal transportation fee to get the items over the borders.

Weekend Witness last week reported that several criminal bicycle ­rackets operating in KwaZulu-Natal are stealing and hijacking bicycles and sending them across the country’s porous borders to other ­African countries.

The bicycles stolen ranged ­between R1 200 to R100 000 and are often stored and then sent to neighbouring countries just before the start of the holiday season.

Two weeks ago, the Combined Action Team (CAT) took down another criminal racket involved in the theft of bicycles in the city.

Team members recovered a huge consignment of bicycles suspected to be stolen after information was received that several foreign nationals were in possession of suspected stolen bicycles in Manchester Road.

Three men were arrested and 37 entry-level bicycles valued at R75 000 were recovered.

At the time, a police source said the trend of criminal syndicates who steal bikes revolves around selling the stolen bikes to wholesalers.

The wholesalers then package the bikes, “wrapping them like cargo”, and store them in warehouses until they can be sent over the border.

It is now believed that not only are these stolen items stored in warehouses, but also in residential properties in and around the city.

“The men appeared in court [yesterday] and were remanded in custody for the verification of their nationality. They will reappear today,” Ngobese said.

Pietermaritzburg Cluster Commander Major-General Lucas Ngobeni yesterday commended the members for a job well done

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