Copper syndicate smashed

Undercover police work resulted in 14 arrests in Hibberdene and Durban.

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A GROUP of 12 men and a woman, including a scrap metal dealer and his staff suspected of stealing copper cable, appeared in the Hibberdene Magistrate’s Court on Monday this week.

All 13, aged between 39 and 44, were charged with theft and the case was postponed by magistrate Giel van Aarden to tomorrow, Thursday, November 7.

A 14th accused is expected to appear in court in Stanger on Monday, November 11.

The syndicate was cracked by a project team from the Hawks, based in Pietermaritzburg, which has been working closely with Combined Private Investigations (CPI), a company which operates as security risk providers for Eskom and Transnet.
In an undercover operation, the team arrested an eight-man criminal group in the Hibberdene area on Thursday and Friday last week. “A vehicle carrying 500kg of contact wire stolen from Transnet was confiscated,” said  police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker.

Undercover operations also led the team to arrest a scrap metal dealer and his staff at their premises in Phoenix and KwaDukuza. “A second vehicle was seized in the yard. The vehicle contained 1400kg of copper, suspected to be stolen,” said Col Naicker.

The group is thought to be linked to 18 copper cable thieves arrested between August and December last year. The 18 people arrested have been charged with 22 counts of theft of copper cable, amounting to millions of rands.

The group, aged between 22 and 42, formed part of a well organised syndicate comprising local and foreign nationals. “Seven vehicles were confiscated of which five were forfeited to the state,” said Col Naicker.

The case is currently on the court roll in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court. The suspects have been remanded in custody.

The provincial commissioner of KwaZulu-Natal, Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni congratulated the team on its success.

This proves once again that the concept of multi-disciplinary project teams will yield results. Copper cable theft has serious effects for the economy and we will deal harshly with those that deal in stolen copper cables, she said.

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Thirteen people appeared in the Hibberdene magistrate’s court this week on charges relating to copper theft.