Racketeering charges for cable theft syndicate

2014-04-14 00:00

THE state plans to institute racketeering charges against 32 members of an alleged syndicate responsible for the widespread theft of copper cables and conductors from Trans­net and Eskom in KwaZulu-Natal.

Thirty-one alleged members of the syndicate appeared in the regional court in Pietermaritzburg on Friday in connection with 60 charges arising from the theft and disposal of copper cables and conductors in the province.

The 32nd accused, Dino Mthethwa, was absent as he was currently recovering from illness in a prison hospital, state advocate Annelize Harrison told regional court magistrate Corrie Greyling.

The case was postponed to May 23.

All the accused have been denied bail to date, except for one — Bashir Rashid — owner of Afro Metals scrap metal dealership in Stanger and Phoenix, who is fingered as a major role-player in the syndicate and is on bail of R500 000.

Rashid and some of the other accused linked to the syndicate were arrested under the auspices of an undercover police operation named “Nuclear”.

In an affidavit filed recently when he opposed bail in respect of Rashid and some other accused, Warrant Officer Craig Botha of the Organised Crime Unit in Pietermaritzburg said the scale of the investigation was such that it was impossible to deal with by conventional means.

“The SA Police views the theft of non-ferrous metals, particularly copper cables/conductors, in a very serious light … so much so that it is mentioned in the chapter of Priority Crimes,” he said.

Botha said copper theft occurs countrywide and affects every one of the citizens and inhabitants of the country “in one form or another”.

He said the group responsible (for the theft in KZN) was very well structured and had evaded arrest for a long time.

“Investigations revealed that this group was in contact with one particular scrap metal dealer, Afro Metals operating in the Phoenix and Stanger areas. An analysis of the available cellphone call data revealed that the criminal group could be placed in the vicinity where copper cables/conductors were stolen and then some of the grouping would make their way to the vicinity of where Afro Metals conducted their business.”

Botha said the first phase of the operation between October 31 last year and November 2013 was aimed at arresting the thieves.

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