The Consumer Goods Council (CGC) of South Africa hosted an awards ceremony in February to pay tribute to a few people who had been involved in thwarting the long-term operations of a crime syndicate targeting retailers.
As explained by Spar’s Keith Alexander, the operations of the syndicate were streamlined and professional. There were no guns, no deaths and no trauma, simply a slick operation that netted millions in stolen money every month.
The criminals’ operation involved obtaining a skeleton key to the cash drawers in retailers – apparently an easy task for this syndicate – and stealing money while cashiers were on a break.
Central to the case was the CCTV footage taken at the Vorna Valley Spar, although other Spar stores were also involved in supplying footage to identify the criminals. The help of a high-level informant was also of particular assistance in sealing the fate of this syndicate.
At the ceremony, Advocate Juan Kotze played some of the video shots taken and explained the process underway to identify the key perpetrators involved. This footage showed how it would take less than 10 seconds for the gangs to remove all the high-value notes from a till, in the middle of the day, in front of everyone. This brazen approach to their crime shows how well trained and confident these criminals were of getting away with their theft.
Their modus operandi was to use numerous members of the gang as shields to prevent people from seeing what was happening, while others would sometimes find the supervisor on duty and other staff and distract them with questions.
While this operation did not involve guns, it did hit multiple stores in various towns and cities on a regular basis, with one informant claiming the leader of the syndicate’s cut was between R400 000 and R800 000 per month. It did, however, lead to some cashiers losing their jobs since in stores without CCTV coverage, these people returned to their tills to find thousands missing with no explanation of how it happened. Due to the human shields involved in the operation, even cashiers at work in the tills next to the targeted one were oblivious to the crime – it was that fast and slick.
The CGC’s manager of the crime prevention programme, James Oosthuizen opened the proceedings, before CEO, Gwarega Mangozhe made the awards to two police officers who have been key to the success of the investigation.
The two officers to receive Exceptional Service Awards were Warrant Officer Mashiane and Sergeant Nkathingi from the Midrand SAPS.
Chief prosecutor, Rassie Erasmus was next up to receive an Exceptional Service Award, followed by Brigadier Gina Palko, Gauteng Cluster Commander.
Maj. General Norman Taioe, Gauteng detective head then received a Certificate of Appreciation from the CGC. Gauteng Provincial Commissioner Lt Gen Mzwandile Petros also received a Certificate of Appreciation, which was received on his behalf by Maj. General Masiye and Maj. General Motsikile.
Peet van der Walt, owner of the Super Spar, Vorna Valley was on hand to pay tribute to one of his staff members, Moses Tsomele, the manager of the Super Spar for his quick and decisive action which led directly to the arrest of certain syndicate members. Tsomele then also received an Exceptional Service award from Mangozhe.
Brett Botten, MD of Spar North Rand was on hand to present additional Certificates of Excellence from Spar to various attendees in appreciation of their continued service to the retail industry, specifically in the crime fighting arena. He presented certificates to James Oosthuizen as well as Juan Kotze.
In her acceptance speech Masiye encouraged all concerned to continue to be alert and praised the cooperation between the various departments and the business community, noting that the success of this case was a direct result of this cooperation and the sterling efforts of Mashiane and Nkathingi, along with the prosecutor’s office. The efforts of Tsomele were also key to the success of the case and Masiye encouraged him to continue his efforts.
The awards were a way for the CGC and Spar to thank and pay tribute to some of the people who have made the effort to fight crime and do the right thing in a tough and normally thankless environment. It also highlighted the fact that when people cooperate, crime can be beaten, and a little help from technology seals the prosecution.
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