CIT heist criminals 'must get ready to fight the war', says Cele after 13 arrested in last 24 hours

2018-06-06 18:33
Minister of Police Bheki Cele (GCIS)

Minister of Police Bheki Cele (GCIS)

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Police Minister Bheki Cele has thrown down the gauntlet to criminals behind cash-in-transit (CIT) heists, after 13 suspects connected to recent heists were arrested in the last 24 hours.

"Criminals have declared the war, so they must get ready to fight the war. All of the units are out of the barracks, all of the units are on the streets, we will be responding much quicker, and responding much more decisively," said Cele, speaking a press briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Seven suspects were arrested on Tuesday evening after a G4S cash-in-transit van, travelling along the R71 between Letsitele and Tarentaal outside Tzaneen, in Limpopo, was attacked by at least 10 men.

READ: 2 cash-in-transit heists foiled by police

Once the suspects were cornered by police, a shootout ensued where one of the suspects was shot dead and three others were critically wounded. They are now in hospital under police guard. 

Police arrested a further six suspects who were involved in another heist in Witbank on Monday, said Cele. 

The minister also announced that police had arrested the number 2 in the hierarchy of the top 20 cash-in-transit heist kingpins. 

During the recent arrests, police also recovered several vehicles, firearms - including two AK-47 rifles, one R4 rifle, which is used by the South African Defence Force (SANDF) - and bullet proof vests from the army and the South African Police Services (SAPS). 

Speaking about CIT heist links to members of SAPS and the SANDF, Cele said that members of police who were found operating with the CIT syndicates had also been arrested. 

Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole, who also attended the briefing, would not disclose how many CIT syndicates are currently operating throughout the country, but said that there was more than one syndicate currently hitting CIT vans. 

"We deal with them in terms of the unconventional policing approach. The assurance we can give is that we are following all of them and we are going to break all of them down," said Sitole. 

'South Africans are going to be safe'

Sitole said the syndicates were being tracked and that the stolen money was being traced and followed. He said a lot of the money was funnelled and "washed" through an illicit economy.

He added that covert operations were running to track down the criminals and the money. 

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre's (Sabric) head of service delivery, Kevin Twiname, said they did not disclose the amount of money stolen in CIT heists, but that it was in the millions. 

Twiname said, of the 71 attacks on CIT vans this year, 49 were written off, costing around R67m. He added that there had been 159 CIT heists this year. 

READ: G4S targeted 5 times in 1 day

On Monday, at a media briefing in Pretoria, Cele outlined plans to combat the plague of serious and violent crime - mainly aggravated robberies - that continue to grip the country.

Cele said, as part of the police's organised crime threat analysis approach, dedicated teams would be set up to track down and arrest wanted suspects in crimes like cash-in-transit heists, hijackings, murders, house robberies, gang violence and related crimes, and taxi violence and related crimes.

The minister gave assurances that South Africans would be safe as police geared up to get rid of the scourge of cash heists.

"When you begin to arrest 13 of them in less than 24 hours, that tells us that South Africans are going to be safe. We are going to work hard with them to make sure that we will reverse the scourge," said Cele.

Read more on:    bheki cele  |  crime

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