Draft law to curb cellphone fencing

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 13 May 2008

Second-hand dealers, including businesses dealing in previously-owned mobile phones, office and ICT equipment, as well as aluminium and copper, will soon have the police looking over their shoulders when a new a new law on the subject takes shape.

The Second-Hand Goods Bill is winding its way through Parliament. It is currently before the Security and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the National Council of Provinces.

The Bill replaces a 1955 law that has become outdated. It revokes many of the exceptions and exemptions granted by government over the years that have allowed criminals to use pawnshops and other second-hand outlets to fence stolen goods, or copper cable.

Under the new law, outlets or pawnshops buying goods from the public will have to keep detailed records of the item purchased and the persons selling or pawning the item, including their identity number, full name and a copy of their identity document or passport. The outlet will have to maintain the record for five years.

The law also places an obligation on businesses to report suspicious transactions to the police, including all attempts by sellers to provide false information or to fence stolen goods. They may also not change or alter goods purchased within seven days of the acquisition.

The Bill also subjects second-hand dealers to section 40 of the Regulation of Interception of Communication and Provision of Communication-related Information Act (RICA). That section of RICA extensively deals with the sale of cellular phones and the details that need to be captured. However, the section is not yet operative.

The Parliamentary Monitoring Group reports that a police official, who earlier this month briefed the NCOP on the Bill, had noted that a new specialised unit would be created within the SA Police Service to enforce the law.

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