Massive truck theft racket

2018-07-03 18:13

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After months of investigation police and private investigators uncovered the “secret stash” of a truck theft syndicate and recovered millions of rands worth of stolen trucking equipment and goods.

Around 10 containers, eight trailers, a truck as well as stolen mining vehicle tyres, truck tyres and cases of beer, linked to an armed robbery in Durban last week, were recovered by police in a night-time raid at the weekend.

Pietermaritzburg’s Rapid Response Unit (Flying Squad) had received information on the syndicate’s hide-out in Cato Ridge and notified other police units. Private investigators and security companies also attended the scene.

Police and forensic investigators involved in the investigation meticulously photographed and recorded the various stolen items found on an open grassy plot of land.

Caz Weeks, an independent insurance surveyor for Africargo and Transit Surveyers, told The Witness at the scene that one of the trucks found there had been linked to an armed robbery in Durban last Thursday.

He said 10 armed men had entered the Durban Container Depot, tied up staff and security, and stolen three containers holding thousands of cases of Heineken beers.

One of the trucking companies affected was Chartered Freight.

Chartered Freight manager Trish Maistry said on Monday that they had moved their containers to an independent container depot in Bayhead, Durban, when the containers were stolen.

“Upon a joint investigation with various parties, the containers were discovered at a site in Cato Ridge,” said Maistry.

“We are grateful to all involved in the recovery of our containers although only a small amount of the [stolen] cargo was recovered.

“We urge the public to contact the Pietermaritzburg Rapid Response unit for any information regarding the balance of the cargo [Heineken 650 ml bottles].”

Maistry said there were about 6 000 cases missing.

Weeks said a search of the yard at Cato Ridge uncovered stolen cargo related to various hijackings along the N3 and in other parts of the province.

He said they had positively identified one of the trailers as one that was stolen in June.

“Some of the stolen trailers and goods go back to incidents that happened two months ago, while some were stolen 24 hours ago,” said Weeks.

He added that the millions of rands worth of stolen goods is suspected to be the work of a “massive syndicate”.

Another investigator on scene, Shaun McGuone of Investipol Forensic Investigations, told The Witness that once a truck or trailer was stolen, it was often stripped, repainted and fitted with new registration plates overnight.

Aliwal Security director Sewraj Girdhurparsadh, who has been in the truck security industry for two decades, said on Monday that the stolen goods are sold at hugely reduced prices.

“This provides a win-win-win situation for the criminals, shopkeepers and consumers, hence information on these crimes is not very forthcoming,” said Girdhurparsadh.

“Needless to say, most of these transactions are cash and as a result, the tax coffers are bypassed.”

Girdhurparsadh said that in most cases the drivers colluded with the criminals, which he said can result in “innocent drivers bearing the brunt of harsh questioning and torture to get answers, also the stigma of being involved even if not”.

He said a truck and trailer cost around R1,5 million and that the goods would be “a good few hundred thousand”.

“Trucks are cloned or sold across the borders.”

He added that truck drivers should use dedicated safe stops and not take passengers for fare or favours. Drivers should plan their journeys with predetermined stops in safe zones.

Stolen goods estimated to be worth over R5 million

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said yesterday that the goods and containers recovered had been hijacked at different areas such as Howick, Brighton Beach and Maydon Wharf.

“Another consignment of stolen mag wheels were also found as well as tractor tyres and beer containers.”

While exact estimates of the value of the stolen property could not be ascertained on Monday, Gwala estimated the value at around R5 million. Other sources said the goods were worth more.

“No arrests have been made, and investigations are continuing.

“All the stolen goods were identified by their owners,” said Gwala.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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