Bags containing evidence collected during the raid. Picture: Danie van der Lith

Kimberley - Several prominent local businessmen, who were arrested during a dawn raid conducted by the Hawks on Friday morning, will be back in court on Monday morning.

They have been linked to an alleged illicit diamond dealing syndicate.

At the crack of dawn on Friday, the Hawks raided the homes of the businessmen and reportedly confiscated assets to the value of R50 million.

Fifteen suspects, including Pikwane Diamonds owner, Trevor Pikwane, were arrested on charges of contravening the Diamonds Act. Charges include illegal diamond dealing, possession and sale of unpolished diamonds and money laundering.

The suspects appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court late on Friday afternoon.

While the rest of the court building was deserted, the courtroom where they appeared was a hive of activity as legal representatives and prosecutors scurried to get charge sheets and bail applications in order.

Most had been up since 4.30am, when the Hawks started knocking on the doors of the unsuspecting suspects.

Magistrate Roland Birch granted bail of between R5 000 and R500 000 to each of the 15 accused, on condition that they hand in their passports and report to local police stations on given days.

Bulging brown envelopes, containing bail money to the value of approximately R2.4 million were handed over to the court’s cashiers, which stayed open until well after 5pm, when the last suspect, Pikwane, appeared.

Pikwane’s residence and business premises were raided by the Hawks earlier during the day.

The sting operation follows a year-long investigation by a team involving various law-enforcement agencies.

Through the use of undercover agents it was discovered that numerous unlawful transactions involving unwrought diamonds took place in the Northern Cape, and specifically in Kimberley.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman, Nathi Mncube, said that the Northern Cape High Court on Friday granted the NPA 10 preservation orders in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act effectively freezing property to the value of approximately R50 million.

“The freezing orders were made up of R43 million in cash being proceeds from criminal activity, five fixed properties and four vehicles that were used to commit illegal diamond transactions. The order comes into effect immediately pending the filing of forfeiture applications against the cash and other property in due course,” he said.

During the raids, the Hawks also confiscated foreign currency, documents and several firearms.

Ashley Brooks, Chris van Graaff, Sarel van Graaff, Frank Perridge, Willem Weenink, Patricia Lenyebi, Colin Carey, Muhammed Ahmed, Patrick Mason and Pikwane will be back in court on Monday, together with three suspects that were arrested in Pretoria over the weekend.

Pikwane and Mason were granted bail of R500 000 each.

It is expected that the trial will be referred to the Northern Cape High Court.

On related charges, Xeuwei Yang, Spiro Louverdis, Brent Lunt, Andrew Pedisane and Kevin Trevor Arry will return to court on September 15.

The State prosecutor in the matter was Advocate Johan Roothman, assisted by Advocate AJ Smith.

Hawks spokesman Paul Ramoloko said on Sunday that more suspects were expected to be arrested or hand themselves in.

Mineral Resources Minister, Advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi, has commended the work done by the Hawks in apprehending illegal diamond dealers operating in the syndicate.

“The dealers were charged with contravening the Diamonds Act which, among other things, prohibits the dealing in diamonds without possession of the necessary licenses. We are pleased with the work being done by the Hawks to address organised criminal activities in diamonds and precious metals.

“Trading illegally in diamonds is not only a crime, it has an impact on the economy, as far as our growth and development objectives are concerned,” the minister said.

Diamond Fields Advertiser