Arrest of 7 illegal mining 'kingpins' part of probe into transnational crime syndicate

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Part of a fleet of vehicles seized by police.
Part of a fleet of vehicles seized by police.
Ntwaagae Seleka
  • Seven people accused of buying, processing and selling gold are behind bars.
  • The seven were caught in Carletonville and Khutsong on Tuesday.
  • Fourteen high-performance vehicles and a truck were confiscated. 

The Hawks on Tuesday arrested seven men for buying precious metals from zama zamas. They are believed to be illegal mining kingpins involved with a transnational crime syndicate.

Their arrests were part of Operation Gillette, a four-year multidisciplinary operation.

Khutsong residents watched in disbelief as law enforcement officers and home affairs officials swooped on eight houses believed to be owned by the ringleaders.

They allegedly processed and sold precious metals, including gold, out of the country.

The bust resulted in the confiscation of a fleet of 14 vehicles and a truck.

A Ford Raptor, VW T-Roc, Audi A3 and a VW Amarok were found parked at a face-brick house owned by one of the men. The man, 38, was handcuffed, and he watched on as his cars were driven out of the yard and paraded on the street.

Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said eight homes were raided, and six more expensive vehicles were recovered.

READ | The police cannot deal with zama zamas on its own, Cele tells Parliament

"We can now ascertain who the suspects are. When we arrested the level 1 category, we linked them to the level 2 and 3 categories. The operation started as an inquiry in 2018, which was later converted into a docket.

"Since then, six sting operations have been conducted. Today, we arrested seven suspects, purported to be level 2 and 3 in the syndicate.

"We seized high-performance vehicles. Fourteen of the vehicles belonged to one person, but were registered under various names.

"We are also investigating level 4 and 5 suspects. Level 2 and 3 are the ones buying precious bearing material from zama zamas, process[ing] it and sell[ing] it to the level 4 and 5 category," Mogale said.

The level 1 category is the zama zamas, who illegally go underground to dig for precious metals.

The operation initially targeted eight people, but one was still on the run, Mogale said.

READ | How 'zama zamas' are digging tourism along Bourke’s Luck Potholes into a black hole

"Two people of interest have been taken in for questioning. The two were taken after they arrived at one of the raided homes. They tried to find out what was happening at that property. They were then taken in for questioning."

Mogale added that the pair might have been communicating with some of the arrested men.

The seven have not yet been linked to violent incidents in Krugersdorp and Kagiso.

They are expected to appear in the Carletonville Magistrate's Court to face charges of fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Precious Metals Act.

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