Criminal underworld under attack

Friday, February 2, 2018

South Africa’s law enforcement agencies have adopted an approach called the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) - devised to target the actual kingpins who bankroll organised crime.

The aim of the OCTA is to analyse the modus operandi of the so-called untouchables of the criminal underworld - the dark syndicates who are the actual root of serious crime.

“This is about tracking and dealing a blow to the source of crime – the kingpins, crime financiers and planners. These are the people who drive luxury cars and behave as though they are ordinary hard working people.

“We are targeting these masqueraders head on – one by one. Their crimes are massive and through their criminality, hundreds of other crimes get committed,” Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Friday.

The Minister, National Commissioner General Khehla Sitole, the Acting Head of the Hawks Lieutenant General Yolisa Matakata and SARS Commissioner Tom Monyane briefed the media on what they called a significant breakthrough in the criminal underworld.

The breakthrough relates to the arrest of nine members of a syndicate suspected of operating a large scale value-added tax (VAT) fraud scam, with a potential loss to the fiscus of more than R99 million.

The nine suspects – eight men and a woman between the ages of 35 and 70 years – were arrested by the Hawks at their homes in upmarket residential areas in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.

The operation was planned with the assistance of the Hawks’ Cyber Crime, Commercial Crime and the South African Police Service (SAPS) Tactical Response Units, following an investigation by SARS criminal investigators which started in 2014.

The SARS investigation revealed that the syndicate, which included a bookkeeper in Durban and Benoni, respectively, claimed R99 million fraudulent refunds through 15 registered, but fictitious VAT vendors.

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

Monyane said SARS had paid out approximately R30.6 million before the scam was uncovered and further payments stopped.

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

During the search, the Hawks seized an AK47 and a pistol, of which the serial number had been filed off, approximately, R250 000 in cash and several gold bars, as well as Kruger Rands worth millions of Rands and bags full of possibly incriminating documents.

Documents seized include identity documents and bank cards of the people who had been registered as VAT vendors, as well as luxury cars.

The suspects appeared in the commercial crime courts in Durban and Pretoria on Thursday and are currently out on bail.

Minister Mbalula congratulated the officials for a job well done in this case saying it is one of the ways that law enforcement are stamping the authority of the state.

However, he advised that the criminals are getting extremely sophisticated and police have to be miles ahead.

“Our work is going on at times quietly. This includes all matters currently under intense public discourse – there will be action. Our fight against corruption and organized crime is a quiet revolution. It is not going to be televised but it will bite steadily and steadfastly without any fear or favour given – there are no holy cows in these secret projects.”

The Minister went on to warn the syndicates involved in anything criminal from, human trafficking, drugs manufacturing and trafficking, car highjacking, assets in transit trafficking, luxury goods fake goods manufacturing and importing, wildlife trafficking and poaching, financing of illegal shebeens and taverns, taxi and bus wars, uber attacks, counterfeit currency printing and public sector corruption that the might of the law is coming for them. -