Johannesburg - Three of the accused linked to the illegal mining syndicate operating in Carletonville and Khutsong were granted bail of R2 000 each following their arrest yesterday morning.
The three, all of them female, are allegedly members of the illegal mining syndicate that was arrested in October 2022 following a sting operation that began in 2018.
Lerato Bathebeng, Poppy Mathongwane and Neo Susan Duba appeared for the first time before the Carlton Magistrate’s Court before they were granted bail after successfully arguing their status as mothers and primary carers.
Their arrests come after the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Asset Forfeiture Unit received approval from the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria to withhold assets belonging to alleged illegal mining kingpins in the amount of approximately R16 million.
The proceeds of this syndicate include 51 vehicles and seven properties, according to a joint statement released on Wednesday by the NPA and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks).
The individuals affected by these preservation orders are Bethuel Ngobeni, Bathebeng, Mathongwane, Bongani Khumalo, Dumisani Moyo, Nhlanhla Leon Magwaca, Duba, Tsepo Dube, Itumeleng Rejoice Magagane, Gloria Kgalalelo Magagane, Mlambo, Nhlanhla Mathebula, Manuel Nhamucho, and Thabiso Sechele.
In court, the State prosecutor argued for a R15 000 bail, but the legal representatives of the accused argued against a stiff bail penalty as the accused pleaded that they were unemployed and their husbands were already in custody for almost a year following their arrests last October.
Lawyers for accused number one, Ngobeni, also argued for a bail application on behalf of their client, whose bail application was combined with that of his other co-accused. Their joint bail application was moved to September 29 after "new facts" emerged.
The State also proposed that their case be moved to November 30, 2023, to secure a high court date in the new year.
According to Colonel Katlego Mogale of the Hawks, and Lumka Mahanjana of the NPA, the court granted the orders in July and August in accordance with the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
These orders aim to put legal measures in place to safeguard or prevent the disposal or transfer of certain properties and vehicles that are suspected to be the proceeds of illegal activities.
All the accused, including six men and three women, are facing several charges, including fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Precious Metals Act.
Last year, only one of them, Moyo, applied for bail, while the other five abandoned it.
State advocate Tholoane Sekhonyana said the delays in the case have not been unreasonable as the state is still investigating as the case is a complex matter that needs the state to satisfy itself with a range of investigations.
This comes after legal representatives for the six accused argued that it has been 11 months since their clients were arrested, yet the State has not been able to make progress in finalising its investigation.
"The delays have not been unreasonable as the state needed to communicate with the banks, car dealerships, and other stakeholders in trying to finalise its case," she said.