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Syndicate accused back in court


The investigation was likely to be concluded within a month as there was still information

BACK IN COURT. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE BAIL application of the eight accused, who are alleged to be members of a criminal syndicate that has been defrauding victims by impersonating law enforcement officials, is expected to continue in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court this morning.

The accused – Trevor Mohapi, Andrew George, Isak Cupido, Wouter Viljoen, James Chimboyo, Frank Mangaliso, Andre Pillay and Jan van Wyk – returned to the dock yesterday after the matter was previously postponed in order for Cupido to seek medical attention and undergo dialysis at Kimberley Hospital.

The accused are facing an array of charges, including fraud, extortion, kidnapping and impersonating a police official, and are suspected of being part of a syndicate that has been operating throughout the Province and in other parts of the country.

Yesterday, the investigating officer (IO), Warrant Officer Bongani Msuthwa, continued his testimony by elaborating on the illicit processes followed by the syndicate, which he had previously referred to as a “network of individuals with a common purpose”.

Msuthwa also addressed the links between which accused could be tied to which charges in various parts of the Province, with ongoing cases before courts in Hopetown, Jan Kempdorp and Galeshewe, among others.

According to the IO, the investigation was likely to be concluded within a month as there was still information, including cellphone records, that needed to be analysed and identity parades that needed to be conducted.

When asked under cross-examination whether pictures of the accused, including a photograph of several of the accused wearing sleeveless T-shirts with the slogan “We Run the City” printed across the chest, which was unearthed at the time of their arrest and subsequently published in the media, would compromise the integrity of the process of linking the accused to the crime, Msuthwa said that while this wasn’t outside the realm of possibility, it was a factor that had been taken into consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

“We are still busy with some undercover investigations and are trying to balance the current workload,” said Msuthwa, adding that the first image of the accused had been published in local newspapers the day after the the group’s first appearance on this matter.

“Therefore, I would like to ask the court for four weeks in order for the investigation to be completed.”

“Before we started executing the arrests, we met the DPP who raised the question of what would happen (in terms of jeopardising the subsequent identity parades) if the photos were circulated. They said that we would get more cases because people would be made aware of the syndicate.

“They said that the images should be published but it was important for us to confirm where witnesses had first encountered the suspects and to identify them as the people who robbed them before they saw their images in the media.”