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Advisor says copper thieves are now trained in ‘schools’, operating in organised fashion

Apr 19, 2022

PICS: KZN cops bust major cable theft syndicate 'with ties to eThekwini  officials'

 

By: Zahid Jadwat

 

Cable theft in South Africa has evolved, as organised crime syndicates take advantage of its lucrative nature and train locals on the know-how of the crime, according to an advisor.

 

Speaking in an interview on Radio Islam, Rens Bindeman, a technical advisor from the South African Revenue Protection Association (Sarpa), said the crime has evolved over the years.

 

“In the beginning, they were just selling directly to the scrap dealers,” he said, adding that copper cable thieves have taken a more organised approach since the introduction of new regulations and task teams to crack down on the crime. 

 

The knock-on loss to the economy is now estimated at around R187bn.

 

Bindeman said extensive training of newcomers to the crime includes when to steal cables and ways by which to evade security measures.

 

“They have central places where they are training people to look at what the law enforcement agencies are doing – and how to counter them – and how to get past them. There’s a list of things that they train them on.”

 

It doesn’t stop there, he said. According to Bindeman, these trained individuals then go on to train recruits on a local level.

 

“The things that they typically look at is how to analyse the scenes where they want to steal, they look at what time of day or night are the law enforcement agencies most active, where to hide the things when they steal… they deal with how they can get transport services and how to export [copper] out of the country,” he said.

 

Copper and metal theft have been rife in South Africa in recent years, costing Eskom, municipalities, and transport agencies Transnet and Prasa billions of rand. Bindeman alleged that foreign criminal syndicates have seen this potential. 

 

“Syndicates, like the mafia, across the world have seen the opportunity to make money here. They organise and use local people. In the past, locals used to just steal [by] themselves, but now they are incorporating them.”

 

He said that the level of organisation makes it necessary to employ high-level intelligence in order to crack down on the scourge.

 

“They make them into cells that operate on their own. So, if you catch these people, you’re catching the local people and not the syndicate. We need much higher level intelligence to look at the bigger picture,” he said. 

 

Listen to the full interview:

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