Johannesburg – Crime experts have applauded the South African authorities for arresting a 46-year-old highly trained Israel fugitive who is a gang leader attached to a criminal group called the Abergil Organisation.
He was arrested together with seven others.
In the early hours of yesterday (Thursday), a team led by Interpol South Africa, Organised Crime detectives, Crime Intelligence and the Special Task Force went to a house in Bryanston, north of Johannesburg, and arrested the foreign gang leader and others.
Further investigations led police to recover 3kg of drugs suspected to be cocaine or crystal meth, a total of 19 firearms (including two AK47s), six motorcycles of which three have been positively identified as stolen, eight motor vehicles (including a sniper light delivery truck), one frequency jamming device, four drones fitted with cameras, two bullet proof vests, two money-counting machines, a digital weight scale to weigh drugs and four GPS tracking devices. The police also seized and $40 000 (about R690 000) in cash.
The scene was cordoned off for almost the whole day, some investigators had to leave the scene and go to the Randburg Magistrate's Court to apply for a search warrant.
Back at the scene, a sniffer dog was called in amid the seizure of the rifles, drugs and foreign currency.
Police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said the gang leader had been on Interpol’s Red Notice list since 2015. A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement bodies worldwide to find and arrest a suspect. The gang leader is wanted in Israel on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder.
According to Israeli authorities, the suspect is part of a gang dealing in drug trafficking, extortion and other criminal activities.
The suspect allegedly placed a bomb underneath a vehicle in Israel in 2003. Five people sustained serious injuries in the explosion.
In 2004, Mathe said the suspect allegedly put a bomb on top of a vehicle. The blast, which targeted the same person, left three people seriously injured.
Police said the fugitive is wanted on an International Red Notice for his part in the attempted murder of a rival crime boss in Israel.
“Based on the information received from the Israeli police, this fugitive has been living in South Africa since 2007. He is also involved in directing a criminal organisation, export, import, trademark supply of dangerous drugs,” Mathe said.
Among the eight motor vehicles seized was a Renault identified as stolen, a sniper light delivery truck fitted with a table and chair and fully soundproof, and a number of loose licence plate numbers for both vehicles and bikes.
Gareth Newham, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) head of the Justice and Violence Prevention Programme, said the arrests by the South African authorities is to be welcomed.
“It demonstrates that we have a good working relationship with Interpol and we are able to arrest fugitives from justice in other countries. Hopefully this will dissuade other fugitives from coming to South Africa,” said Newham.
Organised crime investigator Chad Thomas, from IRS Forensic Investigations, commended the multi-disciplinary inter-agency team that was involved in the arrest of the Israeli suspects.
“We are seeing South Africa becoming one of the destinations of internationally wanted fugitives. This is completely unacceptable. The state authorities have sent a clear message that South Africa must not be considered a haven for international organised crime syndicates,” said Thomas.
“The South African authorities need to beef-up the intelligence structures and stop using the intelligence services for localised political in-fighting purposes.
“We have legislation and infrastructure that can ensure effective intelligence gathering. What we don’t have is the support of the political leadership, who would rather use the intelligence services to their own personal advantage than for the benefit of the state.
“However, that being said, we have seen great work of late from the intelligence services, in particular SAPS Crime Intelligence, who have been working tirelessly in the fight against organised crime syndicates involved in kidnap for ransom cases and other organised crimes,” Thomas said.
Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the country was no longer safe and had become a haven for dangerous criminals from all over the world.
“This arrest confirms what we are saying all the time – that our country’s intelligence structures have collapsed. State capture has destroyed it completely.
“The country is naked, our borders are a security hazard. We call upon the ministers of SSA and police to account to the nation why they are unable to protect the country,” Bloem said.