Pretoria - An intense anti-crime blitz by different law enforcement agencies in South Africa has resulted in the arrest of nine suspects, believed to be major players in the problematic organised crime bedevilling the country, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Friday.
"Yesterday [Thursday] a multi-disciplinary team, consisting of Hawks (Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation), SARS (South African Revenue Service), CI (police crime intelligence unit) conducted a takedown operation. Nine members of a syndicate suspected of operating a large-scale value added tax (VAT) fraud scam, with a potential loss to the fiscus of more than R90 million were arrested," Mbalula said as he addressed journalists in Pretoria.
"Hawks teams arrested the nine suspects - eight men and a woman between the ages of 35 and 70 years - at their homes in upmarket residential areas in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal during a search and seizure operation conducted simultaneously at twelve premises at dawn yesterday. These included a number of business premises leading to several high profile arrests of criminal syndicates."
Mbalula said criminal syndicates operating in South Africa are "extremely sophisticated", and as such the South African Police Service and other law enforcement agencies had to up their game as well, particularly in intelligence-driven policing.
"You will recall I have insisted on intelligence-led policing under the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) as the main tool to target the untouchables, the dark syndicates who are the actual root of serious crime. South Africans cannot live side by side with criminal syndicates," said Mbalula.
"SAPS OCTA aims to refocus crime fighting to criminal modus operandi analysis. This is about tracking and dealing a blow to the source of crime – the kingpins, crime financiers and planners. These are the people who drive luxury cars and behave as though they are ordinary hard working people. We are targeting these masquaraders head on – one by one. Their crimes are massive and through their criminality, hundreds of other crimes get committed."
The outspoken police minister had a message for the criminals syndicates: "I am saying to top gangs and top crime families - South Africa is being disinfected of your kind, watch your back because we are watching you. You are next."
BREAKING:.9 members of a syndicate suspected of operating a large scale value added tax (VAT) fraud scam arrested -
Potential loss to the fiscus - more than R90 million.
Guns, cars, and other proceeds of crime found in their possession #WanyaTsotsi pic.twitter.com/yJVfCdCrGr
He also congratulated members of SAPS and SARS officials "for a job well done, risking their lives for for the sake of our future".
Through the OCTA project, Mbalula said the criminals being targeted are "respected people of the community".
"We must stamp the authority of the state. OCTA is aiming at dealing a huge blow at these masquarades.
"Our mandate is to rid South Africa of corruption and the underworld criminality amongst others, our work is undergoing at times quietly, this includes all matters currently under intense public discourse – there will be action," he said.
"Our fight against corruption and organised crime is a quiet revolution, it is not going to be televised but it will bite steadily but steadfastly, without any fear or favour given – there are no holy cows in these secret projects."
Criminals syndicates in South Africa are involved in human trafficking, drug manufacturing and distribution, car hijacking, assets in transit robberies, fake luxury goods manufacturing and importing, wildlife trafficking and poaching, financing of illegal sheebens and taverns, taxi and bus wars, counterfeit currency printing, public sector corruption and many other ills.
African News Agency/ANA