A Limpopo police officer and an emergency medical services official were arrested after they were allegedly caught using their official state vehicles to transport smuggled cigarettes from Zimbabwe into the country.
The policeman, Aipheli Munzhedzi, 35, and EMS official, Maanda Daniel Netshipale, 39, were nabbed in separate sting operations on Wednesday. The SAPS also pounced on a former SA Revenue Service (Sars) official John Tshanda Musina, 43, on Wednesday.
Musina was employed as a quality assurer at Sars, and monitoring the smuggling of illicit items coming into or leaving the country formed part of his duties. He was also caught on Wednesday.
The three appeared in the Musina Magistrate’s Court on Frida on charges of defeating the ends of justice, money laundering and corruption. They were released on bail of R2 000 each.
Hawks Limpopo spokesperson Captain Matimba Maluleke said they received a tip-off about the alleged involvement of the officials in illicit acts and monitored their actions before swooping. They were allegedly using their marked vehicles to evade arrest from law enforcement agencies.
“It was an intelligence-drive operation by the Hawks and Crime Intelligence Unit.
“We received information that the police officer and EMS official were collecting these cigarettes from the Limpopo River.
“The police officer and the EMS official were using their official marked vehicles while the Sars official used his private vehicle.
“We had to monitor them overtime before carrying out the arrests on Wednesday,” Maluleke said.
He said the three were each allegedly paid between R2 500 and R4 000 for every trip.
According to Maluleke the accused would drop the loot near the N1 where they would be paid by their handler.
He said the trio operated individually because the investigators could not link them to a syndicate.
He also said that the police were unable to seize the Sars official’s vehicles as an exhibit for the case as it was repossessed by the bank during his arrest.
Maluleke said the latest arrest brings to six the number of people linked to a similar crime.
On October 13, the Hawks arrested three police o constables, Azwindini Ramphambani, 35, Thina Makhokha, 35, and Prince Netshiavha, 36, from Musina and Muswodi police stations respectively.
They were also released on bail of R2 000 each, and expected back in court on November 29.
National head of the Hawks Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza said that the unit would stop at nothing in their efforts to root out serious corruption in the SAPS or any government sector.
He said South Africa deserved to be served by professional, law-abiding police officers, whose mandate it was to create a safe and secure country for all.
“We have been working on this operation for some time, gathering intelligence against the suspects. We are the custodian of the law and order and cannot afford to fail our people who rely on us for safety and security.
“There is no room for corruption in the SAPS, the government or private institution. We are continuing with this operation and I am sure we are still going to root out police officers and other officials with criminal mind-sets,” Ntlemeza said.
The Hawks have briefed the provincial commissioner of Limpopo and the province’s Health Department about the charges against the state officials, and they wanted them to act against them internally in accordance with the labour relations regulations governing their employment.
Source : IOL