2006-11-19 : Gauteng is 'mafia' turf

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2006-11-19 : Gauteng is 'mafia' turf

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2006-11-21 10:08

Gauteng is 'mafia' turf



‘They live extravagant lives, wear designer label clothes and drink expensive whiskey and 20-year-old brandy’

Foreign syndicates run most organised crime

Foreign criminal syndicates have entrenched themselves in Gauteng. Operating in much the same way that the Italian immigrant Mafia conducted itself in the US in the early 1900s, the foreign syndicates are entrepreneurial and innovative, settling in immigrant communities and spreading their sphere of influence in the underworld.

From Nigerian drug traders and Mozambican and Zimbabwean armed robbers, to Portuguese and Lebanese truck- hijacking syndicates, most of Gauteng’s organised crime involves foreign immigrants.

This is according to a study, made available exclusively to Metro, conducted by a team of researchers from the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

The researchers, led by Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane, interviewed numerous police officers and criminals.

Irish-Qhobosheane is quick to point out that not all immigrants are involved in crime and that xenophobia and hostility towards foreigners means law-abiding immigrants are unlikely to help curb crime.

The SAIIA research found that most syndicate leaders operate above the law and are seldom caught. Only lower- level members are arrested.

The findings, to be published in a book called The Social Economy of Organised Crime, state that Nigerians control 80% of the cocaine trade and that they have established a “Little Lagos” in Hillbrow and Berea — in much the same way as the Mafia operated out of “Little Italy” in New York.

Nigerian drug lords dominate the illegal drug trade, selling to Israeli and Greek networks which provide drugs to users in the city’s northern suburbs. In the southern suburbs, they supply drugs to local Afrikaner criminal networks.

Irish-Qhobosheane says Nigerians pay what they call “street tax” — big money to bribe police officers — once offering a policeman in Berea R150000 to turn a blind eye to a kilogram of cocaine with a street value of R300000.

She says they use aliases and pay up to R5000 for a fake South African ID. They don’t take drugs and don’t testify against each other. They often take over dilapidated apartment blocks, introducing their own ruling committees.

They find drug couriers at homeless shelters.

The researchers found that the drug lords employ South Africans, Mozambicans and Zimbabweans to kill double- crossers. While car-hijacking syndicates are largely run by South Africans — with 36 syndicates operating out of Soweto alone — truck hijacking is often a foreign enterprise.

Portuguese, Lebanese and Chinese networks, each consisting of up to 100 members, hijack trucks for their goods.

According to Irish-Qhobosheane, in about 70% of those hijackings, the truck driver is involved, earning between R10000 and R50000 for each hijacking.

The hijackers store the stolen goods in warehouses and repackage them before selling them on to larger traders and big retailers.

Armed robberies, including bank and cash-in-transit heists, are mainly committed by ex-combatants from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, according to the study.

Most armed robberies take place in Gauteng, where at least 60% of the country’s cash circulates.

Many heist operators live extravagant lives, claiming to be recovering what was stolen from them during colonialism. “We’re bringing home the cows that were stolen from us,” they say.

They live extravagant lives, wear designer label clothes and drink expensive whiskey and 20-year-old brandy.

Crime statistics released in September show that Gauteng accounts for 76% of the country’s bank robberies, 53% of car hijackings and 49% of truck hijackings.

In addition, 41% of armed robberies and 36% of cash heists occur in Gauteng.

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