Four held in chop-shop bust

2010-08-31 00:00

MEMBERS of the Pietermaritzburg’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations Unit (Hawks) have detained four Pakistani nationals on charges of corruption and possession of stolen goods.

Mohammad Saqib and Waqar Anjum were arrested two weeks ago by the Hawks after a tip-off that led to a chop-shop in Yarborough Street, Mkondeni.

The chop-shop is 150 metres away from the police Vehicle Identification and Safeguarding (VIS) section (pound).

According to Wikepedia “a chop shop is slang word for an illegal location or business which disassembles stolen automobiles for the purpose of selling them as parts. It may also be used to refer to a location or business that is involved with the selling of stolen goods in general …”

Captain Jageesh Devnarain Singh of the Hawks in Pietermaritzburg said when Hawks members got to the premises the doors were closed and on close inspection, they discovered that there were two men working on stolen vehicles.

“When the men saw our officers they panicked, but there was no getting away. They were doing a great job in cloning the vehicles, which were stolen from Gauteng.

“We believe that this is a syndicate and we are following leads for more arrests,” said Captain Singh.

Inside the workshop were four Toyota Quantams, a VW Polo and a Toyota Verso.

The suspects would buy scrap body parts, cut the fronts of the stolen vehicles off and replace them with legitimate ones bought from scrap yards. Chassis and engine numbers are changed and the original number plates are cut into pieces.

The Hawks recovered a plastic bag with the pieces and they put them together like a jig-saw puzzle.

After the arrest, an investigating officer received phone calls from a Mohammed Ansar Iqbal promising him money if he would arrange bail for the arrested men and “deal” with the case.

“We pretended to have fallen for the bribe of R50 000 and a meeting was arranged and the two met at the Golden Horse Casino. Mohammed, accompanied by Mohammed Fahim Sadic, brought the money in cash.

“The two were arrested, but three other suspects got away,” said Captain Singh.

Saqib and Anjum had no documents describing the status of their stay in the country.

They are to appear for formal bail application on a date yet to be announced.

The Hawks plan to oppose the suspects’ bail as they have no house address and lack legal paperwork.

They lived in the workshop.

Iqbal and Sadic were remanded in custody for seven days as the police are still tracing their addresses.

“It has not been easy to get information on these people from the department of Home Affairs because of the strike,” said Captain Singh.

He said lengthy jail terms can be expected if the four are found guilty on both charges.

Colonel Nikky Van der Westhuisen of the VIS said it is difficult to say how big the chop-shop “business” in KZN is. He said most stolen vehicles are found abandoned and there has not been a reported case of this nature in a long time.

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