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Johannesburg - A gang who follow people after they make large withdrawals from banks around Gauteng and rob them originate from Tembisa, Ekurhuleni, and Pretoria, and call themselves “The Planes”.

Founder of crime-fighting organisation eBlockwatch Andre Snyman said he had been alerted to the fact that there is one specific gang operating in Gauteng.

He said three people had been killed in recent weeks after they withdrew large amounts of money from a bank.

Snyman urged people to access the eBlockwatch Facebook page so that they could begin to identify the spotters in the banks. He said people who lived or worked near banks might be able to spot them.

“They targeted the East Rand, then moved to Pretoria, and yesterday (Friday) they killed a man who drew money from Woodmead,” Snyman said.

The Sandton Chronicle, which spoke to a witness, reported that the man who was killed on Friday was driving on Wessels Road in Rivonia when a Mazda bakkie pulled up in front of him.

One man had a gun and they opened the victim’s door and were searching around in the car before they shot him. The paper said the man had just withdrawn money from a bank.

Sandton police spokeswoman Captain Kym Cloete said they would not confirm that the man had been followed from a bank. “That is… part of our investigation,” she said.

The Star spoke to an investigator who has inside knowledge of bank robberies in Gauteng, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

The investigator said these ”spotter robberies”, as they call them, were all organised by one core gang of 34 members who come from Tembisa and Pretoria.

“They recruit members from other areas, mainly in the East Rand as well as Alexandra. I would say right now there are over 200 people involved in these crimes.”

She said they call themselves The Planes “because they fly like planes behind the victim when they follow them from the bank”.

The investigator said the gang had been in operation for more than 10 years and they were also involved in other crimes, such as house robberies and hijackings.

The cars that they hijack are then used to commit the other crimes.

“The modus operandi of the silver Mercedes gang is very similar. They hijack a car and then target someone who is leaving their house.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they are involved in spotter robberies too,” she said.

How they operate

The investigator said The Planes would hijack a vehicle, then park it in easy-to-access parking lots in hospitals and casinos, where they can leave them for days if need be.

The investigator said there was a misconception that it was the tellers in banks who give the gang information on who has drawn money.

She said the gang places spotters in the banks.

“They stand inside the banks. They wait in the queue and when they get to the teller, will ask for change, or plastic money bags, or they will pay an account in multiple deposits, like R30 at a time,” she said.

They followed victims to the parking lot and watched which car they got into.

She said spotters can go to five or six banks in a day if they don’t find a victim. There could be two to three groups scouting a bank on the same day.

The woman said The Planes members were rolling in money.

“We know who they are. We know their wives and their children. They are unemployed yet live in fancy houses and their wives buy fancy shoes from Italy. One gang member’s wife was wearing a R14 000 pair of shoes.”

The investigator said people needed to be aware that these types of crimes were increasing, and more and more victims were being killed.

“People mustn’t withdraw large amounts of cash. There are other methods of transferring money.

“One victim had R3.4 million stolen which he had withdrawn. People withdraw R600 000, R300 000. They mustn’t do it.”

Recent incidents

* Last year, Derek Woods was shot outside De La Salle Holy Cross College Primary School by three men after he had withdrawn a large amount of money. Police arrested six suspects in Katlehong and Klippoortjie.

* In February, a man was arrested in Alexandra after he attacked two women who had withdrawn R6 000 from a bank.

* In November last year, Chris Smith was shot dead in Giles Street, Robertsham, after withdrawing money from a bank at the Southdale Shopping Centre.

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The Star