Port Elizabeth - Five foreigners with possible links to the Italian mafia have appeared in court after police efforts tracked them across the country, from Gauteng to the southern Cape.
The modus operandi of the men, who appeared in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on Friday after being arrested with counterfeit power tools worth more than R3 million, closely resembles that of the Camorra crime syndicate – one of the oldest and largest Italian mafia-style criminal networks in Italy.
Police and other authorities, including Interpol, are investigating possible links.
Diamante Galliano, 26, Antonio Galliano, 52, Gaetano Canfora, 31, Antonio Tocco, 55, and Vincenzo Olisterno, 50, were arrested in Port Elizabeth and in Jeffreys Bay after the Port Elizabeth metro hijacking task team received information that they were headed for the Eastern Cape from Gauteng.
They allegedly sold the knock-offs to unsuspecting buyers after rebranding the tools with self-made stickers of well-known brands, including Stihl and Honda.
The Camorra crime syndicate, based in Naples, is known for its global operations and has been very active across Europe and Britain in recent years, leading to various international organised crime units joining forces to clamp down on its members.
Police spokesman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said the Port Elizabeth metro hijacking task team received information on Monday that the suspects, wanted for fraud in Gauteng, were headed to the Eastern Cape from Nigel in a hired Toyota Fortuner.
At Colchester, on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, police stopped the vehicle and arrested the two Italian occupants. “At around the same time, Humewood police were approached by a man who claimed a group of men – not the same suspects arrested earlier – in an Audi A3 approached him at the Port Elizabeth airport to try and sell various heavy-duty power tools to him at a fraction of the cost.
“They apparently told him a story about how they were trying to get back to Italy, but didn’t have the money and therefore were trying to sell their tools,” Janse van Rensburg said.
They showed the man fake invoices indicating that the equipment they were offering to him at just over R30 000 was worth more than R100 000.
When police searched the Fortuner, they found a key to a guesthouse in the upmarket suburb of Wavecrest, in Jeffreys Bay. “Police went to the guesthouse and found another three Italian nationals.
“They also found powers tools, including generators, chainsaws and drills worth about R3 million in their room.
“They also had Honda and Stihl branded stickers with them, all of which they printed themselves,” he added.
Police also confiscated a hired Audi A3, a Jeep and an undisclosed amount of money. A sixth suspect fled the scene shortly before police arrived, but was arrested in Joburg on Thursday.
All five suspects arrested locally, who travelled to South Africa on holiday visas, appeared in court on Friday. The matter was postponed to Thursday, and they will remain in custody.
Garden Route Media