Johannesburg – The Hawks have seized two highly sophisticated communication-intercepting machines that were allegedly used by syndicates that hijack trucks carrying goods worth millions in Gauteng.
They used the devices, commonly known as Grabbers, to intercept the cellphones of people working for law enforcement agencies. In this way they could find out the details of any sting operations in the pipeline, said Hawks provincial head Prince Mokotedi.
They also used the devices as signal jammers after hijacking trucks to make sure they did not get caught while offloading their loot. The devices made it difficult for tracker companies to locate the hijacked trucks.
The syndicates targeted trucks delivering cigarettes, computers, appliances and other cargo worth more than R5 million.
The tracking and locating equipment is highly regulated internationally and in South Africa, and ordinary citizens are not allowed to use them.
Mokotedi said one of the devices was found in a hijacked truck abandoned in Joburg after the hijackers fled the scene. One suspect was arrested and, after fingerprints were found, Mokotedi was certain more arrests would follow. “We got positive results, and I’m confident we will crack this one,” he said.
Another device was found at the suspect’s house. He was being investigated for cash-in transit heists at the time.
The receipts show the device was bought overseas. The same man was arrested and convicted of being found in possession of a signal jammer last year.
Mokotedi said he had been heading a special project since June this year that focused on finding interception machines believed to be in the hands of criminals.
The discovery of the two machines comes a year after the Hawks arrested two men who were found in possession of a super-spying gadget.
The pair were lured to Irene Mall in Tshwane in a police and intelligence sting operation that resulted in their arrest for illegally being in possession of the cellphone-tapping, tracking and locator machine.
After the discovery of the Grabber, worth R15m, the Hawks vowed to track down all the Grabbers in the hands of criminals.
The Grabber had been used to advance certain parties in commercial transactions.
The suspects are facing trial in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.