Diesel theft suspects held in sting operation

Five caught allegedly siphoning fuel from trucks parked at depot

The breakthrough comes a month after police revealed that a syndicate was believed to have stolen hundreds of thousands of rands worth of diesel from several businesses in the previous two months.

The majority of businesses targeted were in Motherwell, Markman Industrial Township and the Wells Estate area.

Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said detectives had spotted the men during a joint operation targeting copper thieves.

Aviwe Marsi, 28, Batembisa Bhuqwana, 36, Sithembile Siphuka, 30, Vuyani Nicholana, 50, and Nqabisile Noyloma, 45, were all released on bail by the Motherwell Magistrate’s Court on Monday for charges ranging from theft and possession of stolen property.

Police have described the attacks as problematic, with gangs targeting logistics depots and fuel transporters.

In most cases, the security guards were ambushed by a gang of armed robbers who arrived with their own portable pumps and trailers loaded with 1 000-litre containers.

Beetge said the five were caught on Saturday morning while allegedly siphoning diesel from trucks parked at one of the depots.

“They were decanting the fuel into five 25-litre drums,” he said.

“Three suspects were caught, as well as the two onsite security guards who were assisting them with the theft.”

Beetge said that, to date, there had been several cases of diesel theft and, in some cases, armed robberies were under investigation.

“This has been an issue for months,” he said.

“Since detectives have been investigating this group there have been about 13 people arrested.”

“In one case, the manager of one of the depots as well as staff members were also arrested for being implicated.”

Most of the cases involved onsite security guards claiming to be attacked and tied up.

“We are consulting the security companies, who have been very forthcoming, even sending their staff for polygraph tests,” Beetge said.

“In addition, we will be doing basic criminal background checks on all staff at the various sites to ensure they are not part of known syndicates or gangs.”

He said those arrested who worked for security companies would be reported to the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, which has the power to strike them off their database and revoke their clearance to operate in the security industry.

Beetge said investigators were looking into the latest arrests to see if the people were linked to a large syndicate targeting other depots and warehouses.

More arrests are expected to be made soon.

The suspects are due to appear in the Motherwell Magistrate’s Court on November 11.

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