Durban - A police raid on a major scrap metal dealership last week and the arrest and detention of a manager on “theft charges” involving allegations that seized copper cables and lead were stolen from Telkom and the eThekwini Municipality, was challenged in the Durban High Court on Tuesday.
The company, Group Wreck International Non Ferrous, says because of the prevalence of “illicit” dealings in scrap metal, it keeps meticulous records of its purchases to ensure that it does not buy any stolen goods.
And, in its urgent application before acting Judge Nkosinathi Chili, it took particular issue with the fact that the police had given the 1 467kg of copper cable and 30kg of lead, taken as “evidence” from its Queensburgh premises, to Telkom.
After the launch of the urgent application, the police retrieved the exhibits and the company’s representatives did an inspection.
In terms of an order taken by consent on Tuesday, the company recorded that the metal had not been weighed, that it was contained in five bags, whereas at the time of seizure it was in seven bags, and there was no lead at all.
It was also recorded that some of the cable had been cut into lengths – when the cable seized had not been – and that there was no wire bearing any discernable markings indicating it belonged to Telkom.
In his affidavit, company director Angelo Solimene said the company would not purchase scrap metal from any supplier unless it had properly identified who that party was.
He said, because of unscrupulous dealers, the police frequently did inspections under the Second Hand Goods Act, which stipulated that dealers had to keep registers.
“We are regularly visited,” he said, but claimed to have never been convicted of any offence.
He said the most recent raid occurred late last month when officials from Telkom and the city pointed out to the police certain cabling and products alleged to belonging to them.
The manager, Steven Prinsloo, was arrested “because he happened to be on duty at the time” and was charged with theft and detained overnight at Malvern police station before appearing in court.
Solimene said the company could prove who it had bought the goods from and “while we do not suggest that the police are not entitled to seize scrap metal to investigate crime, it did not appear they were interested in following up the documentation”.
Solimene said on previous occasions when metal had been seized, the wrong goods had been returned and he was determined that this time it would remain in the custody and control of the police.
He was irate to discover two days later that it had been given to Telkom. He said this conduct was “highly prejudicial to an accused person” and it became impossible for companies to claim for damages.
Prinsloo will appear in court again at the end of January.