No bail for 11 accused

2014-05-19 00:00

ELEVEN alleged members of a major car theft syndicate in Pietermaritzburg have been denied bail by a Pietermaritzburg magistrate.

Ashin Singh on Friday refused to grant bail to the accused on grounds that the state has a very strong case against them and they are a flight risk.

Had it not been for a deep undercover operation by the police the accused would not have been brought to book, he said.

In his affidavit to oppose bail, the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Andrew Brown from the Directorate for Priority Crimes, said when the case comes to trial the state will present covert video recordings of dealings and actions by the accused, as recorded by an undercover police agent.

The accused were not linked to the stolen and recovered vehicles via fingerprints as the undercover video recordings show that they’d used gloves to hide their prints when driving or touching the inside of the stolen vehicles. They would also wipe the vehicles down before handing them over to buyers.

However, there was camera footage of them doing so.

According to Brown, the accused’s cellphone records will also be used to place them at the relevant crime scenes by way of tower locations, at the times and dates on which the thefts occurred.

Evidence would be led that after stealing vehicles, the accused would park them at the home of the undercover police agent for a “cooling off period” to establish if the vehicle could be tracked or if they were followed.

Brown said in his affidavit, the investigation was launched due to information that Toyota and Volkswagen Polo vehicles were being stolen in the Pietermaritzburg area at an “alarming rate” between 2011 and 2013. He said normal policing methods could not halt the thefts because the suspects were working in an organised fashion as a syndicate.

The only way the thefts could be addressed was via an undercover operation.

Operation “Mojo”, which had the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions, was then born and resulted in the arrests of the 11 accused.

This was after a deep undercover police agent infiltrated the syndicate posing as a buyer of stolen vehicles.

“Numerous stolen vehicles were sold by the syndicate members to the police agent and placed into police custody as evidence. Other vehicles offered to the police agent by the suspect were not purchased, but sold by the suspects to other buyers. This was done to show that the police was not creating its own vehicle theft market,” he explained.

Brown said the theft of motor vehicles in Pietermaritzburg dropped dramatically after the arrests of the accused in the case.

Statistics showed that in January 2012, 61 cars were stolen in the Pietermaritzburg area, which decreased to 37 in January this year.

They dropped to 26 in February this year.

Brown said he believed that if granted bail the accused would evade trial due to the seriousness of the charges and the strength of the state’s case. He said the accused did not have fixed assets or close community or family ties as they would “party from early in the evenings [any day of the week] and then go to work [stealing vehicles] throughout the night and early mornings”.

Singh praised Brown and state advocate Mahendra Naidu of Durban for the work they put into the bail application.

The accused are: Ian Williams (27), Siyanda Tsotsane (24), Ndumiso Ntshangase (34), Siyanda Mkhize (31), Nathi Hlela (42), Siyabonga Thobaleni Dlamini (23), Sibongiseni Marken (24), Lwazi Xulu (24), Sandile Shezi (29), Derrick Williams (35) and Mduduzi Zondi.

The case has been adjourned to June 18.

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