Johannesburg - Senior police officers are believed to be fighting each other for control of truck hijacking syndicates threatening the transport industry.
Several highly placed police sources have confirmed that at least two police generals, whose names are known to The Star, are under investigation for using their subordinates to orchestrate hijackings and resell the stolen goods.
On Tuesday, police arrested four suspects for truck hijacking and possession of stolen goods at Crystal Road in Booysens.
One of the suspects was a police officer, a sergeant of the Johannesburg Flying Squad, who was off duty at the time, said Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.
It was alleged that the truck, belonging to Logical Logistic, was carrying goods when it was stopped in Boksburg North on Monday afternoon by people in a white car.
“The suspects’ vehicle was fitted with blue lights and they were dressed in metro police uniform. The victims were held at gunpoint and bundled into the vehicle and dropped off close to Brits in North West,” the statement said.
“The truck was later traced to Booysens at a business premises where the suspects were offloading cleaning detergents valued at more than R1 million,” Dlamini said.
Chad Thomas, from IRS Forensic Investigations, welcomed the arrest of the flying squad sergeant. He said investigations had revealed that some of the 10111 cars escort the cigarette trucks from the Beit Bridge border post for a fee.
“Rival groups target each other’s trucks, and the flying squad members pull over the trucks and hijack the stock. A lot of visible-police members are part of the syndicates,” Thomas said.
Busaphi Nxumalo, a spokeswoman from the Gauteng traffic police, said on Thursday their anti-hijacking unit had recovered about 40 trucks that are hijacked in and around Gauteng each month.
“There is a huge syndicate in Johannesburg targeting trucks transporting goods worth millions,” Nxumalo said. “In some cases, when we interrogate the drivers, they tell us they have been working with the police. This is how the syndicates work. The police use the blue light to stop the truck and then the criminals pounce.
“The syndicates usually target trucks that are transporting cigarettes because there are millions involved. You find that a truck from British American Tobacco is carrying cigarettes worth R10m,” Nxumalo said.
The hotspots are the N3 near De Hoek plaza, the R59 and the N12 towards Potchefstroom. The syndicates use jammers to block tracking devices until the goods are offloaded.
National police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said police commissioner General Riah Phiyega was looking at rooting out criminal elements in the police “regardless of whether the corrupt officer is based at the Hawks, detective division, crime intelligence or police station”.
“The message is simple: if anyone is involved in criminal activities, they must be arrested. Many have been arrested already and many more are going to be.”
The detergent truck is the latest truck hijacking incident where police officers and/or a blue light gang have been involved.
The Gauteng director of Justicia Investigations, Conrad van der Merwe, said trucking companies had lost up to R350m in stolen fuel to a blue light syndicate which had been operating between Durban and Gauteng.
He said the syndicate used white unmarked vehicles with blue lights. Two months ago, a cigarette truck was hijacked on the R21 near Pretoria by traffic policemen on marked metro police motorbikes, he said.
“They stopped the truck. One metro officer asked for the driver’s licence and then pulled out a gun. He used a cable to tie him and then took the truck.”
Cigarettes and fuel were targeted the most because the syndicates preferred small loads with a high value, but anything over R1m in value was a target.