Farm owner tells foreign media massive drug bust not linked to his estate

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Western Cape police have discovered cocaine worth R500m on a Villiersdorp farm. (SAPS)
Western Cape police have discovered cocaine worth R500m on a Villiersdorp farm. (SAPS)

Cape Town - The mystery behind the origin of a massive drug stash found on a Villiersdorp wine farm, possibly the biggest heroin discovery in SA, has deepened with the farm owner telling a Belgian publication it is in no way linked to the establishment.

Last Wednesday June 21, police announced that R500m worth of cocaine was found on a farm in the Overberg town.

However, it has since emerged the drugs may be heroin - worth less than that.

Three suspects were arrested.

Only one, Mark Rodrigues, 23, who is Dutch, now remains in custody and is expected back in the Caledon Magistrate's Court this Wednesday June 28.

READ: Inside SA's 'biggest' drug bust - 5 things that have emerged so far

Police hunt suspects

News24 understands the owner of the truck in which the heroin was transported to the farm left SA last week.

On Monday, Western Cape Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha said officers were following up on leads about the origin of the drugs and were looking into whether more suspects were involved.

He said information suggested the farm owner was abroad.

Lode Lemahieu, of Belgium, owns the Eerste Hoop wine estate where the drugs were discovered.

He did not immediately reply to emailed queries about the matter from News24.

Calls to the farm were not answered.

When News24 reached Lemahieu's office in Belgium on Monday morning and in the afternoon, an employee said he was not yet there.

The massive drug bust has made news headlines in other countries, including Belgium.

READ: Rival faction planted cocaine in underworld bust - claims surface

'No links' to farm

On Saturday, the Belgian publication, Het Nieuwsblad, quoted Lemahieu as saying his farm had become central to the matter purely by coincidence.

Wine was returned to the farm and that was when workers discovered the drugs in boxes which were not as heavy as others.

"When they opened the boxes, they only saw white-grey powder," Lehamieu told the publication.

"It's a pity that our good name will be smeared in this way... We do not have anything to do with it ourselves."

Last week community safety MEC Dan Plato congratulated police on the discovery of the drugs, but said an intense investigation was necessary.

He said the drugs allegedly, according to information received, originated from a wine farm in the Boland.

Plato said the investigation needed to look into aspects including where the drugs were manufactured, who had financed this, and who was involved in delivering the drugs.

Underworld allegations

Last Wednesday several sources, with ties to policing and the underworld, had said the farm was owned by Sea Point businessman Mark Lifman.

However, Lifman denied this and said he was in no way involved with the drug trade.

News24 has established that sources appear to be linking certain major crimes to individuals in what could be a smear campaign of sorts, which may be part of a bigger underworld campaign to tarnish the reputations of certain people.

It was not the first time sources have claimed a massive drug bust is linked to the underworld and certain individuals.

On June 12, R104m worth of heroin was discovered hidden beneath a vehicle which was going to enter SA via the Kosi Bay port of entry.

Three suspects were arrested.

An informant, who goes by the name Mr Wick, and who has ties to the underworld, told News24 that the heroin was linked to a particular older underworld faction which controlled the majority of the country's drug trade.

However, other sources rubbished Mr Wick's claims, saying he was merely trying to smear the names of others.

In the Western Cape recently, a newer underworld faction has been taking over security at nightclubs from an older faction - activities which have turned violent and resulted in several shootings.

The club security matter is understood to be linked to the drug trade, in that some establishments are viewed as crucial turf from which to peddle drugs.

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