Chrome thieves are caught red-handed

LYDENBURG – Chrome theft is a national concern. Phoenix Flying Squad, K9 and Mounted Security Squad made yet another breakthrough when they arrested four chrome-theft suspects on the Badfontein Road on Saturday.

According to Jandre Stander of Phoenix, they received a call from a farmer in the district about a tipper truck and TLB that were operating in the long grass next to the road.

“Years ago the weighbridge on the same spot was used to monitor the chrome trucks and those carrying wood and other materials. I immediately sent one of my security officers, John Wolmarans, to investigate.

“He was in an unmarked vehicle and not in uniform and noticed several ‘spotters’ at the said weighbridge. I told him to pass the scene and wait for instructions.”

In the meantime, Ngululu Bulk Carriers made a call to Phoenix officers, Reuben Swanepoel and Arend Lamprecht and told them that they received an alarm at midnight on Friday at their power take-off pump (the tipping mechanism on the truck) at the Badfontein scene.

“Security officers were dispatched to the scene and arrested four suspects in the act of loading the dumped chrome.” While Phoenix was busy at the scene, Ngululu said they received another two alarms indicating that two other dumps had taken place in eMahalahleni.

Stander immediately dispatched officers to the scene. The security company contacted the local police as well as the Hawks in Limpopo. Phoenix arrested seven suspects, including those in eMahlahleni. All three Ngululu trucks were stopped at the Mozambique border.

The driver who dumped the chrome at Badfontein managed to escape, but the drivers of the two eMahlahleni trucks were apprehended by the company’s supervisors. “The ferrochrome price has varied in the past 18 months between R500 000 and R2,5 million for a truck carrying about 38 tons,” explained Stander.

He said there are eight weighbridges at Maputo Harbour. “The drivers find out where their contact is and pull into that particular weighbridge with their empty load. They pay him, say, for instance, R1 000 and he fills in the paperwork. Remember this is legally mined chrome that is being stolen.”

Last year, Phoenix caught 47 trucks for committing the same offences. The men appeared in the Lydenburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday on charges of chrome theft. They will remain in custody until their bail application on May 15.

Narda Vermaak

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