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A syndicate is believed to be targeting Joburg’s wealthy families, with the Oppenheimers possibly being the latest victims.
An independent financial crimes investigator believes a major theft syndicate is operating in Gauteng, specialising in jewellery, art, and antiques.
Chad Thomas, from IRS Forensic Investigations, said this syndicate was different from the “Rolex Gang” that targeted wealthy individuals spotted at upmarket shopping centres and followed them home. Thomas suspects this syndicate recruits domestic workers employed by wealthy families.
An employee of the Oppenheimers, Edgar Rosenburg, opened a “general theft” case at Hillbrow police station on July 26. He describes himself on his LinkedIn profile as the general house manager at E Oppenheimer and Son.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini confirmed the case was being investigated. He said a person had been arrested and taken to court, but the prosecutor declined to proceed.
The suspect was released and further investigation was continuing.
The Oppenheimer theft case was opened a day after the reported theft of rare snuff boxes valued at R15 million.
The insurer of the boxes would not say who the snuff boxes belonged to, only that it was “a wealthy family” in Joburg who did not want to be named or their suburb identified.
John Pearson, the managing director of loss adjusters John Pearson & Associates, who are investigating the theft on instruction from Lloyd’s Underwriters in London, said the 20 stolen boxes were originally used to store scented powdered tobacco and were valued at more than R15m. A R1.5m reward was being offered for their return.
The managing director of Artinsure, Gordon Massie, said
“the frequency of art theft in the last financial year was up by 43 percent.”
In the past two months, IRS Forensic Investigations received information on similar cases.
One involved the theft of jewellery from a Mrs Chetty in Pretoria, the other the theft of a jewellery heirloom from a family in Norwood. Thomas said in both cases the domestic worker was the prime suspect.
Massie said 37 gold, silver and copper coins, two military medals and four commemorative coins – all part of a larger collection – were stolen in Parkview in February. He believed the thieves most likely had a known market and a buyer for the pieces.
James Teegar, managing director at Ernest Oppenheimer and Sons, refused to comment.