Crooks strip the city

2014-06-06 00:00

A SCRAP metal syndicate that stole city road guard rails, which were then sold to buyers in India, was dealt a massive blow when nearly 50 tons of stolen railing were seized yesterday.

With multiple arrests, the massive find was partially due to an off-duty policeman from the SAPS Integrated Vehicle Task Team heading home from soccer practice.

And it is believed the stolen municipal railings could cost the city in excess of R10 million to replace despite the scrap dealer having bought the entire 46-ton load for a paltry R130 000.

The two-part haul saw 19 tons recovered at Chatsworth scrap dealer Sunset Metals and the seizure of a 27-ton container at the port waiting to be exported to India.

At the heart of the theft is a company called Umbutu Developments which apparently ordered the removal of the railings on the supposed authority of the South African Roads Agency.

But no trace or record could be found of Umbutu and the firm claiming to be contracted by them to remove the railings from the roadside — MTN Logistics — said they can’t reach them either.

The haul in stolen road guards is the second in seven days. Last Friday the police uncovered a similar scam in Hillcrest. In both instances the workers arrested wore reflective gear, had chevrons to cordon off the road and operated as if in an official capacity.

Neither Sunset Metals nor MTN Logistics claimed any knowledge of their operation being illegal and believe sworn police statements — taken prior to the raid — will prove their innocence.

The off-duty officer Warrant Officer Tiger Ramsamy saw the men removing the railings off Himalaya Road, Merebank at 11 pm on Wednesday.

Metro police’s Captain Greg Beavon said Ramsamy alerted Durban Metro of what he saw. “Ramsamy detained the suspects and we responded. We had been getting reports of guard rails going missing for about three weeks.

“We obtained information and then raided the scrap dealer at 1 am on Thursday morning and impounded alleged stolen railings,” said Beavon.

Sunset Metals partner Daya Irusan said the buyers for the product were in India. “The rails are low grade metal and would be exported on weight. I don’t feel guilty. I do not want to crook in any way. This was unforeseen and now it appears we have been given a forged document and lost our money,” said Irusan.

Sunset employee Winston Pillay said MTN Logistics’ owner Ashlee Naidoo provided them with all “the necessary paperwork”.

“A letter, with a signed and stamped affidavit, was given to us. Over a period of two weeks starting May 23, we took delivery of guard railings. We had no idea it was illegal,” said Pillay.

But Naidoo said he was acting on the authority of Umbutu Developments.

“The documents they sent me seemed genuine. They said they had authority by Sanral to remove the railings. I was to get 10% of the price that it was sold for. They told me to use Sunset. I am still owed cash. I have nothing to hide and I am out of pocket,” said Naidoo.

In an SAPS affidavit handed to the scrap dealership by Naidoo as proof of legality to sell the railings and which was stamped at the Chatsworth police station on Monday, Naidoo stated under oath that he had a “contract with Umbutu”, that the road barriers would be disposed of at “Sunset Metals” and this included all “road fundamentals [sic] for Sanral”.

Yet the details for Umbutu all appear to be fake, including the VAT number, company registration number, address, telephone number, and according to the Companies Intellectual Property Commission, the company does not exist.

“I have been trying to get hold of Umbutu since the raid but I can’t reach them. When I sold the product to Sunset I met with a man called eMbatha Kuze from Umbutu to hand him the money. I have yet to get my cut. I got the contract after responding to an advert on Gumtree,” said Naidoo.

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