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SA cops still in the dark after FBI intercepted the ‘sale’ of a 4-year-old Bonteheuwel child

Cape Town – Police are still in the dark about the FBI investigation which one-upped an admittedly oblivious local crime intelligence department in a heart-rending case in which a 4-year-old Bonteheuwel child was almost sold by her mother to paedophiles.

Police Minister Bheki Cele made these startling revelations in a written reply to EFF MP Mathapelo Siwisa, who demanded reasons for the SAPS’s failure to be ahead of the FBI which, she said, had “intercepted” the alleged crime by the mother.

Despite the matter being before the Parow Magistrate’s Court, Cele alluded to the SAPS’s ignorance around the case, saying its investigators did not have the capacity to probe crimes committed through social media apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook, as these were “managed” in the US.

The Weekend Argus previously reported that the US Homeland Security had, in 2021, dispatched an agent to pretend to be a buyer in the transaction.

The FBI agent tracked the mother to Bonteheuwel after she was allegedly paid through PayPal.

Cele said: “The SAPS is not aware of the incident that was reported by the FBI of a woman offering her 4-year-old child for sale to paedophiles.”

Without qualifying his statement, he added: “This type of information could be posted on a number of platforms on the clear web, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp (encrypted platform), and on the deep and dark web.

“Most of these social media platforms are managed (hosted) in the USA.”

Police Oversight and Community Safety MEC Reagen Allen said: “This is a shocking revelation. From an intelligence perspective, one would think that the relevant authorities would have been informed of the details or at least would have been made aware.”

This isn’t the first time US intelligence ran circles around its local counterparts, with the State Security Agency and SAPS crime intelligence widely ridiculed for allegedly failing to identify a terrorist threat in Sandton in late October.

The US embassy had issued a terrorism alert warning its citizens of an imminent attack in Sandton, leading to a diplomatic fallout between the two nations.

Allen said: “That an entity from another country is attending to a matter in this country and the minister is not aware, raises red flags.

“It concerns me deeply that neither SAPS nor the national minister is aware, and points to a need for improved intelligence and better co-operation between local and foreign law enforcement bodies.”

He said the country could be teeming with illegal activities occurring right under our noses, but it would take international law enforcement agencies to identify them.

Asked whether the police were capable of policing crimes committed on the internet or the dark web, SAPS spokesperson Athlenda Mathe had not responded at the time of writing.

• Meanwhile, Cele reported in a separate reply that the Western Cape had consistently registered the second highest statutory rape cases (of girls younger than 16) since 2018.

Second only to Gauteng, the province recorded 160 statutory rape cases in 2018/2019, 174 in 2019/2020, 170 in 2020/2021and 172 in 2022. From April to September this year, it recorded 85 cases, lower than the Eastern Cape (88) and Gauteng (196).

soyiso.maliti@inl.co.za

Cape Argus