Six members of an illegal banking syndicate were finally stopped in their tracks after more than eight years.
The syndicate – which operated in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo – was last week sentenced to a consecutive 843 years imprisonment by the High Court in Johannesburg.
The six defendants stood trial on 68 charges, including racketeering, kidnapping, robbery, murder, fraud, corruption, conspiracy and possession of firearms and ammunition.
The syndicate targeted unsuspecting bank customers – who withdrew large sums of money.
According to Phindi Mjonondwane, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the syndicate members regularly received information from informants, who saw customers withdrawing money from ATMs. Descriptions of the potential victims were sent to team members so that they could follow the victims to isolated areas or to their homes to then rob the money and other belongings, such as mobile phones and wallets.
One of their victims was Johan Joseph Meyer. In August 2013, the accused saw Meyer and his wife withdraw a large amount of cash. The syndicate’s informant gave this information to his associates, who followed the couple to their home and robbed and shot Meyer.
The court ordered that some of the sentences should be served concurrently:
- Vusimuzi Jomo Mazibuko (43) and Xolani Comfort Mkhwanazi (32) will each serve a life sentence.
- Calvin Congo Mabunda (40) will sit for 25 years.
- Vusi David Sibanyoni (41) and Sticks Nkuna Bhova (46) will each effectively serve 20 years.
- Shaun Khumalo (25) will serve 15 years in prison.
The syndicate started their shenanigans in Rustenburg in 2011, where they tried to rob the post office at Mabeskraal by kidnapping one of the employees, who they said had the keys to the safe.
After that they continued their activities in Gauteng.
The syndicate also pursued clients in Booysens, Klirivier and Vereeniging using the same modus operandi.
Between 2017 and 2018, they continued their criminal activities in Giyani, Limpopo, by attacking bank customers in the same way.
“They were finally caught at a shop in Giyani when they assaulted members of staff who had withdrawn a large amount of cash from the bank moments before,” says Mjonondwane.
The robbers fled the scene, but were chased by the police, which led to a shootout between the two parties.
The criminals were linked to the crimes through fingerprints, facial recognition, expert testimony by bank officials and various positive identifications through various identification parades.
“However, the accused refused to participate in an identification parade in Giyani, and the police were instructed to hold a photo identification parade, during which a number of victims were able to identify the perpetrators,” says Mjonondwane.
During the court case, the state relied on the testimony of Maureen Coetzee, an expert on bank robberies. She analyzed footage from the banks to determine what the role of each accused was.
“Her testimony was important to establish how these syndicates function, and what role each person plays in the syndicate, including the informants, the armed members and people such as bank tellers who provide the information to the syndicate.”
Adv. Geo Wassermann, deputy director of public prosecutions (assisted by Adv. Cobus Ehlers), says the victims of these crimes rely on the criminal justice system to help them process their loss, pain and suffering.
The NPA expressed its gratitude to the complainants who came forward to testify. Investigating officers Sgt. Tshediso Simon Nyofane and AO Kazamula Robert Chabalala were also thanked for their efforts to combat organized crime.
“We will continue to ensure that these syndicates are stopped in their tracks as part of promoting citizen safety.”
Leave a Reply