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Suspects nabbed for suspected stolen electronic devices

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The suspects were found with 207 new cellphones, five tower batteries, three solar panels and two laptops.
The suspects were found with 207 new cellphones, five tower batteries, three solar panels and two laptops.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) this week arrested suspects in possession of alleged stolen electronic gadgets and equipment worth about R1 million.

In a statement, SAPS says an intelligence-driven operation conducted on Monday by members attached to the Port of Entry, Westenburg Crime Intelligence unit and a tracker company, led to the apprehension of three suspects aged between 28 and 35 for being in possession of suspected stolen property.

It is reported that police received information about a Toyota Quantum with a trailer carrying six occupants that was travelling from the Eastern Cape province to Zimbabwe.

The vehicle was spotted along the R101 road at a garage while refuelling and was taken to the nearby weigh bridge to be searched, says SAPS.

Police found 207 new cellphones, five tower batteries, three solar panels and two laptops to the value of R900 000 that were concealed inside a trailer with luggage.

According to SAPS, the occupants could not disclose the origin of the items and did not have the receipts.

The driver, his assistant and one passenger who were pointed out were immediately arrested at the scene for being in possession of suspected stolen property.

During the arrest, police also confiscated the Toyota Quantum with an Eastern Cape registration number and a trailer.

The other three occupants were released because they were just passengers travelling home and could not be linked with the stolen items.

The suspects are expected to appear in the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court soon. Police investigations are still continuing.

The arrests come as SA’s mobile operators are suffering from the theft of cell tower batteries at base stations.

The rate of vandalism and theft, especially multiple repeat incidents, sometimes forces the operators to abandon base stations due to unviable replacement costs, thereby adversely impacting network availability or quality in some areas.

MTN data shows that as many as 89 cell towers across the country are on hold as they await replacement batteries and maintenance fixes.

The mobile operator says 53 base stations have been completely destroyed and have had to be terminated nationally; 39 in Tshwane and 15 in Johannesburg. 

Vodacom last year said it is losing as much as R140 million a year from criminals targeting its base stations.

Last year, a suspected cell tower battery thief was shot dead as the SAPS took the war to the criminals that are increasingly targeting mobile operators’ base stations.

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