Huge copper theft ring bust

2015-10-09 11:16


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Pietermaritzburg - Four men allied to a national copper theft syndicate with international links were arrested on Thursday after a massive bust in Richmond.

The men, who are believed to be linked to a string of more than 20 cases of professional copper theft, were the targets of a countrywide manhunt by industry giants Eskom and Transnet.

Nearly R800 000 worth of ­copper was found by police at the small homestead where they arrested the men in Richmond.

It is believed that the syndicate has links to smugglers in India and China, who buy the copper from the thieves and ship it overseas.

The Witness can reveal that a ­special team of investigators ­employed by private security ­company Combined Private ­Investigations (CPI) was tasked by Eskom and Transnet to crack the syndicate. The company specialises in intelligence operations concerning non-ferrous metal crimes for various state organisations.

After a successful bust in the Free State last week in which four men from the syndicate were arrested, information led the investigators to KwaZulu-Natal, where the ­remaining four men from the syndicate were believed to be operating.

In a joint effort by the security company, officers from the Senekal police station in the Free State, Richmond police detectives and members of the Tactical Response Team, and the Organised Crime and K9 units, the four men were tracked to the Richmond ­homestead.

According to uMgungundlovu South police spokesperson ­Mthokozisi Ngobese, the men, aged 26 to 39, were found with R765 000 worth of copper cabling after an “intensive investigation” that ­continued from Wednesday night through to yesterday morning.

Ngobese said the men were linked to 11 cases of copper theft in the Free State as well as 16 cases in KZN.

It is believed the four men ­operating in KZN had stolen copper from areas in Pietermaritzburg, Richmond and Underberg.

“Upon further investigation it was established that the syndicate would steal copper and export it to China and India through various contacts they have,” Ngobese said.

“The investigation is still ­under way, as we want to establish if these men are linked to any other cases. Their modus operandi is very ­specific, so it can be traced easily.”

Ngobese said uMgungundlovu South police cluster commander Major-General Lucas Ngobeni had expressed his gratitude to all the officers involved in the bust yesterday.

“The cluster commander said operations like this emphasise the importance of partnerships ­between the police and other ­stakeholders,” Ngobese quoted.

Jan Wolmarans of CPI said he had not received any feedback from his investigators by the time The Witness went to print yesterday, and was therefore unable to ­comment

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  copper theft

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