Cable buyers in the dock

2015-11-26 11:00
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Pietermaritzburg - Theft of overhead conductor cables in South Africa has cost Transnet Freight Rail an estimated R1,6 million per day.

The financial loss per annum was estimated at R584 million, including all penalities, and replacement values of materials, resources and infrastructure.

The thefts also had the potential to endanger lives and cause trains to collide. Around 3 285 trains were delayed per annum due to the thefts.

These were some of the severe impacts of the rampant crimes committed by copper theft syndicates, highlighted in papers before the Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday.

The statistics were contained in a statement by Transnet Freight Rail senior investigation official Zacharias de Bruin.

They were attached to court papers in which the National Director of Public Prosecutions applied for, and was granted, a preservation order yesterday over R17 700 cash which is allegedly the proceeds of the theft of overhead copper conductor cables.

The deputy director of public prosecutions, Kenneth Samuel, and Organised Crime Unit investigating officer Craig Botha said the money was seized on September 2, 2013, during an undercover police operation known as “Project Nuclear”. The operation focused on the activities of a syndicate in KZN identified by Combined Private Investigations, a company subcontracted to Eskom and Transnet as a security and risk management provider.

Two policemen, Ntokozo Ndlela and Richard Kheswa, were deployed under “Project Nuclear” as undercover agents.

During the operation they conducted controlled deliveries of stolen copper cable to a company trading as Afro Metals in Stanger and Phoenix, and met several of the roleplayers dealing in stolen overhead conductor copper cable.

The sole member of Afro Metals, Bashier Rashid, and others are to stand trial in the regional court in Pietermaritzburg on racketeering and other charges related to cable theft.

According to Samuels, the undercover policemen took part in a “sting” operation on September 9, 2013 which led to the arrest of an alleged “middle man”, Deenadayalan Kuppusamy, who subsequently entered into a plea and sentence agreement with the state. He admitted guilt on all charges against him.

On the day of the sting, Kuppusamy had directed the police agents to offload stolen cables at Afro Metals in Stanger and proceed to the Phoenix branch to be paid. They had received R17 700 cash for the load.

This is the money that was seized by police and which is the subject of yesterday’s preservation order, pending an application by the state for the money to be declared forfeit.

Samuels said although the cash amount is “small” compared to the financial damage that cable theft causes, the forfeiture of the money must be seen in the context of several other cases falling under “Project Nuclear”.

“Not only cash is seized, but also vehicles that were used in the commission of this scourge of selling copper cable which is wreaking havoc on the economy of our country,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court

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