Mbalula warns 'top gangs and top crime families' to 'watch their backs'

2018-02-02 17:21
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula. (File, Netwerk24)

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula. (File, Netwerk24)

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Pretoria – Following the arrest of nine people believed to have operated a large-scale value added tax (VAT) scam, defrauding the South African Revenue Service of more than R90m, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has warned top gangs and crime families that they are next.

Speaking at a media briefing on Friday in Pretoria, Mbalula said the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) team - which includes the Hawks and Crime Intelligence - was being used as the main tool to target the "untouchables", the dark syndicates "who are the actual root of serious crime".

"Through OCTA, I am saying to top gangs and top crime families, South Africa is being disinfected of your kind, watch your back because we are watching you. You are next," said Mbalula. 

On Wednesday, the Hawks arrested the nine suspects at their homes in upmarket residential areas in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal during a search and seizure operation conducted simultaneously at 12 different premises.

Read: 9 alleged members of R99m VAT fraud syndicate arrested

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the operation was planned with the assistance of the Hawks' cybercrime and commercial crime units and the South African Police Service tactical response units, following an investigation by criminal investigators from SARS.

He said the SARS investigation revealed that the syndicate, which included a bookkeeper who works in Durban and in Benoni, allegedly claimed R99m fraudulent refunds through 15 registered, "but fictitious, VAT vendors".

"False VAT vendor details, with fraudulent supporting documents, were used to register the vendors," he said.

Mulaudzi said SARS had already paid out approximately R30.6m before the scam was uncovered. Further payments had been stopped, he said.

"The proceeds of the scam were deposited in bank accounts, from where the money was allegedly laundered through at least 35 so-called suppliers," he said.

'Quiet revolution'

An AK47 and a pistol with a filed off serial number, approximately €2 300, (R250 000) in cash, several gold bars, Krugerrands worth millions, and bags full of possibly incriminating documents were seized during the operation.

Mbalula said criminals were becoming extremely sophisticated, and as a result, police would have to be miles ahead of them and anticipate their every move, like good chess players. 

"SAPS OCTA aims to refocus crime fighting to criminal modus operandi analysis. This is about tracking and dealing a blow to the source of crime – the kingpins, crime financiers and planners," he said.

"Our fight against corruption and organised crime is a quiet revolution, it is not going to be televised, but it will bite steadily but steadfastly, without any fear or favour given – there are no holy cows is these secret projects.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are de-resourcing criminality. The space will have no financiers, no planners, no masterminds, no runners, as we spread OCTA on to all of them."

SARS commissioner Tom Moyane, who was also at the briefing, said that, while there was a resurgence of VAT scams, SARS was closing in on all syndicates, using highly sophisticated processes and data analytics. 

"We want to assure South Africans that these activities will not be given an opportunity to survive. We would like to create an environment where all South Africans that pay their fair share of taxes are assured that those involved in nefarious activities of defrauding the state will face the full wrath of the state," said Moyane. 

The suspects appeared in the Commercial Crimes Court in Durban and Pretoria on Thursday, where they were all given bail. The matter has been postponed to February 15.  

Read more on:    fikile mbalula  |  pretoria  |  crime

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