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Durban - A Kwazulu-Natal couple believed to be among the country’s biggest dagga smugglers have been arrested near Pietermaritzburg after a six-month covert crime intelligence operation.
The police are also probing the couple’s alleged links with international drug syndicates in countries like the UK and Netherlands.
Police spokeswoman, Lieutenant Joey Jeevan, said the seized dagga was just the tip of the iceberg: “These guys are bringing in tons and tons of dagga every month. Our investigators are still quantifying the amounts. But it is multi-millions.”
A high-ranking police source said the dagga was of “very, very high quality” which attracted high-end customers locally and internationally.
The dagga – compressed into 3kg balls – was transported through the mountainous terrain in Lesotho using horses and donkeys, the source said.
“The drugs are transported across the border to a location in Underberg where bakkies and trucks wait to transport it to Pietermaritzburg,” the source said.
The couple and four alleged drug runners were expected to appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday on multiple charges of dealing in dagga.
The police raided the couple’s shacks across the Copesville informal settlement of Swapo on Friday.
Members of the Pietermaritzburg and provincial crime intelligence units, the Pietermaritzburg cluster drug team and Hawks, supported by the Pietermaritzburg K9 and tactical response units, seized drugs with a street value of about R350 000, as well as thousands of rand in cash.
During the six-month operation, undercover agents were sent in to make purchases of dagga.
The couple, both from Lesotho, are believed to have been operating in the province for more than 10 years.
The husband works as an electrician in Durban.
The source said the compressed balls of dagga sold for R350 each.
“The couple live in a squatter settlement which is almost impossible to access.
“We had to use more than 50 policemen and 30 vehicles to infiltrate the area,” the source said.
The drugs were found in a makeshift packaging lab with several enamel dishes containing money.
“Most of the runners are also Lesotho nationals. This is a massive, massive bust.”
The source said the operation was uncovered after an influx of dagga was noted in the KwaMashu and Inanda areas.
“Through our informer networks the couple were tracked. They have runners countrywide.”
Jeevan, confirmed that the dagga was being trafficked into KwaZulu-Natal from Lesotho.
The six arrested were all believed to be from Lesotho, and were alleged to have been receiving the drugs from a family who lived in the mountain kingdom, she said.
“It is believed that the arrested suspects have been dealing in the greater Durban, Inanda, KwaMashu and Pietermaritzburg areas,” said Jeevan.
Police provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mammonye Ngobeni, said she was pleased with the arrests.
“Copesville is one of the areas that we are focusing on and we want to assure the community that despite the challenges we experience investigating drug cases we will not loosen our grip on drug dealers in the province and we will continue to invade their space.”
Earlier this month the police swooped on the Pietermaritzburg houses of alleged city drug lord couple Hoosen and Yasmin Mohamed in Mars Crescent, Northdale. The couple and seven of their alleged drug runners were arrested and charged with multiple counts of dealing in cocaine and were still in custody, awaiting their bail application. The suspects were arrested during raids after a three-year undercover operation by crime intelligence officials and the Hawks.