Hawks arrest ‘ghost vending’ syndicate
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SEVEN people believed to be part of a criminal network responsible for large-scale pre-paid electricity fraud and theft were arrested by a multidisciplinary team that swooped in on various premises in Gauteng.
During their arrest, one of the suspects allegedly induced the arresting officers with R100 000 gratification and was additionally charged for corruption.
Other suspects were allegedly found in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition and were additionally charged accordingly.
Several cell phones, laptops, sim cards, total cash amount of R714 800, seven luxury vehicles, electricity prepaid vouchers and transaction records were seized for further investigation.
The seven are expected to appear in the Fochville Magistrate’s Court today (Friday).
The Hawks say this project driven investigation started in May 2020 in Bloemfontein, Free State probing the illicit sale of electricity facilitated by illegal vendors who have in their possession illegal electricity vending machines.
‘Ghost vending’ involves the illegal sales and purchases of electricity.
The syndicates reportedly operate in groups nationally and generate income of about R150 000 to R250 000 per day from illicit sales of electricity, said Hawks spokesperson Philane Nkwalase.
“They are highly organised, well-equipped and closely networked and are difficult to track due to the fact that these machines do not transact on a network or at a single place, but are constantly roving.
“The suspects were allegedly responsible for selling illegal electricity to prepaid customers.”
‘Ghost vending’ has been blamed for the millions of rand that Eskom losses per annum.
“This loss of revenue and the increase in non-technical losses contributes significantly to the electricity woes of the country.
“These arrests come at a time when the country has been plunged into load shedding due to the bleak power situation,” said Nkwalase.
Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya said: “The work of the investigating team is commendable.
“This work is continuing and the team shall not rest until all the members of this organised criminal group are accounted for.
“Once more, I call upon the community not to buy electricity from illegitimate vendors.
“May the community be reminded that the Hawks do not accept gratification to negatively influence the cases that they are handling.
“Those who try to corrupt the members will be arrested and the offered gift forfeited to the State.”
Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter said the breakthrough would help restore confidence in the power utility.
“This is economic sabotage of the highest degree and the perpetrators of such crimes must be brought to book and dealt with the full might of the law.
“We shall pursue the investigations together with the Hawks to ensure that the entire operations of the syndicate are disrupted,” he said.