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2021/11/16      |  Written By:  Captain C Singo   |   Province:  Free State

FREE STATE – Seven  suspects aged between 28 and 55 were arrested today in the early hours of the morning in Welkom on allegations of illegal mining, money laundering, theft and corruption.

They were arrested by the Hawks integrated team with their counterparts  in Pretoria in concert with Crime Intelligence (CI), Tactical Response Team (TRT), Public Order Policing (POP), Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC) all from  Free State as well as local security companies, Harmony and Bidvest Protea Coin both based in Welkom.

Their arrests were effected during the termination of a project driven investigation lead Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation team in Free State. The project investigation began in July 2018, aimed at disrupting and dismantling the identified threat of illicit mining in Welkom and Thabong areas.

During the course of the project driven investigation, the alleged targets were identified as the syndicates members who are involved in illicit mining activities and money laundering as well as corruption.

It is alleged that these syndicate members are owners of various businesses that are operating legally and generate some income. However those companies are allegedly used to launder large amounts of money through their illegal mining business activities. Moreover they allegedly use runners to illegally recruit foreign nationals to work as zama-zamas and then obtain the gold bearing material and sell it to illegal gold buyers.

Several items were seized during the arrest which include 23 vehicles to an estimated value of more than R5 million, 02 firearms, 02 gas bottles, 01 cutting torch set with pipes, documents and undisclosed amount of money.

The suspects are expected to appear in court soon.