A VW Citi Golf – the “wheels” used by the boss of a syndicate which broke into hired vehicles and stole whatever was of value from inside them – has been deemed an “instrumentality of an offence” and forfeited to the state.
The car will now be sold at auction and the proceeds put into an account to fight crime.
While not of any great value – about R50 000 – the head of KwaZulu-Natal’s asset forfeiture unit, Knorx Molelle, said in an affidavit before the Durban High Court that forfeitures removed the incentives to commit crime and deterred others from allowing their property to be used in criminal activities.
In papers before the court, Warrant Officer Brad Varley, lead investigator of “Project Vista” – a probe into a spate of cases of theft out of motor vehicles – said specific makes of vehicle belonging to vehicle-hire institutions were being targeted.
Laptops, cameras, navigational equipment and personal belongings were being stolen – and then sold for cash – while these cars were parked at shopping centres, hospitals, restaurants and beaches.
The kingpin of one of the syndicates was Clinton Heslop, also known as Pokemon, who would be driven around by his friend Nash Govender in his Citi Golf.
Varley said “Pokemon” had pleaded guilty to about nine charges of theft out of motor vehicles. Govender pleaded guilty to one count, but had made previous statements to the police confirming that he had driven “Pokemon” on several occasions and had also transported the stolen goods.
Investigations revealed that, while Govender was not the registered owner of the vehicle, he was the de facto owner, and the car was parked at his parents’ home in Chatsworth at night.
Molelle noted that, in spite of receiving notice of the court application, neither Govender, the registered owner, nor the bank, which had a financial interest in the vehicle, had put up any opposing papers.
In a separate court application, the R1.3 million cash which provincial hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen alleges was used in an attempt to bribe him has also been finally forfeited to the State.
Two men charged with the crime, suspended policeman Navin Madhoe and uMhlanga businessman Thoshan Panday – both also under investigation in a R60 million police tender probe – were given an opportunity to oppose the forfeiture order, but neither filed papers with the court.
It is alleged Madhoe, on behalf of Panday, approached Booysen in August last year asking him to pre-date a report on the tender probe with the aim of suppressing evidence.