File photo: Tracey Adams

Cape Town - Seven men in their late twenties have been arrested in connection with robberies at MTN shops across the Western Cape. They were nabbed in Gugulethu on Thursday and found in possession of 45 stolen cellphones still sealed in their boxes, and four modems.

Four illegal firearms were also seized.

The men will appear in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court next week.

The men are believed to be members of a syndicate and to have been behind a spate of robberies across the country.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut said the investigation had been made a priority.

“We will make every endeavour to break the back of this trend,” Traut said.

“Investigations could result in more arrests in due course.”

In the most recent robbery, an MTN shop in Strand Square in the Strand was robbed of cash and 45 contract cellphones worth about R180 000.

According to a police report, three armed men were involved in the robbery, which took place just after 9.45am on Saturday.

One entered the shop, which is on the corner of Fagan and Main roads, and held two woman staff members at gunpoint.

A second man stood outside as a lookout, while the third waited in their getaway Toyota.

The women were ordered to open the safe.

The robbery was the latest of five to hit MTN shops across the province.

There have been similar hold-ups at MTN shops in Steenberg and Observatory recently.

MTN sources told the Cape Argus the company had been targeted because its phones and tablets were not region-locked and could easily be used outside the country.

MTN staff members, who set up a special team to aid the police and the Hawks with the operation, said they were confident that the seven arrested on Thursday were the men behind the robberies.

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Cape Argus