Pietermaritzburg – The forfeiture of R17 700 a Durban scrap metal dealer paid for stolen copper was negligible compared to chaos caused to the economy by the scourge of copper cable thefts.
This was the opinion of a police officer after the Pietermaritzburg High Court ordered that the the money paid to African Metals for 450kg of copper in a police sting operation be forfeited to the state.
Accused, Bashier Rashid, of Snell Parade in Durban, who was charged with 25 others on a wide range of charges flowing from the theft of copper cable, owns African Metals cc located in Phoenix in Durban and in Stanger along the North Coast. Rashid is out on bail but most of his co-accused remain in custody.
Judge Piet Koen ordered the R17 700 handed to an African Metals worker by police undercover agents, Ntokozazi Ndlela and Richard Kheswa, be forfeited.
The sting operation followed a circuitous route in which the middle man, Deenadapalan Kuppusamy, one of the 26 accused standing trial in Pietermaritzburg, co-operated with police by arranging for African Metals to pay the undercover agents for stolen copper recovered by the Pietermaritzburg Organised Crime Unit.
The unit's Warrant Officer Craig Botha co-operated with forensic investigators looking in to copper thefts by the alleged syndicate that included Rashid and Kuppusamy. Botha helped investigate copper thefts, including two each in kwaDukuza and Hibberdene and one in Scottburgh.
Fifteen of the 26 accused also face charges of unlawful immigration into South Africa. All 26 are accused of copper theft and of associating with one another in 2012 to commit malicious injury to property and racketeering to enrich themselves.
They have also been charged with possession or use of profits for their unlawful activities. Four have been charged with money laundering.
The syndicate's planning included acquiring cellphones that could not be linked to the thieves and made it difficult to find their homes.
After a few arrests, they started using gloves as the copper left a strong odour on their hands and footwear.