Police smash platinum smuggling syndicates

Rustenburg | Tuesday

FORTY people, believed to members of platinum theft syndicates, were arrested in the North West on Tuesday morning while about R9-million of the precious metal was recovered, police reported.

“We have smashed five syndicates,” Superintendent Ernie van Rensburg told reporters at a platinum mine near Rustenburg.

He said police hoped to arrest a further 20 in connection with platinum theft.

Two North West policemen and a number of mine employees were among those arrested in the swoop which began at 1am on Tuesday.

The 40 were expected to appear in court on Wednesday and would be charged with theft and the illegal possession and illegal trading in unwrought precious metal. The arrests were the culmination of a two-year-long undercover operation involving 150 policemen aimed at clamping down on the theft and illegal trade in platinum.

The investigations were conducted in conjunction with two platinum mining houses under the police’s national organised crime head office in Pretoria.

Van Rensburg said illicit trafficking in platinum was a lucrative practice. The international price of platinum stands at around $425 (about R4 000) per ounce.

Some of the stolen platinum was sold in South Africa, while the rest was smuggled out of the country.

Interpol was working with the police to investigate people who were believed to receiving the stolen metal in other countries.

AngloPlats representative Mike Mtakati said the company would be beefing up its security systems.- Sapa

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