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Johannesburg - A syndicate dealing in precious metals has been uncovered and 28 people arrested, the Hawks said on Thursday.

“The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) in Gauteng and the North West arrested 28 members of a syndicate trafficking and dealing in precious metals (gold, platinum and palladium),” spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko said in a statement.

The arrests followed a two-day intelligence-led operation that started in the early hours of Wednesday and was concluded in the early hours of Thursday.

Ramaloko said 23 properties across the two provinces were raided during the operation. Twenty-two of those were residential and one business.

“Upon searching the properties, over R1 million in cash, and gold to the value of over R2m, believed to be the proceeds of their illegal dealings, were seized,” he said.

Those arrested were aged between 28 and 63. Ramaloko said the activities of the syndicate were kept under surveillance for over a year.

In that time a number of illegal precious metals transactions to the value of R23m were made.

The syndicate would sell illegally acquired precious metals from illegal mining activities on the legal market locally and regionally.

The 28 were expected to appear in various courts in the two provinces - two in Springs, Gauteng, and 26 in the Rustenburg Magistrate's Court in North West.

“They will face charges of dealing in and smuggling precious metals. Money laundering charges may be added later,” he said.

Sapa