Asset Forfeiture Unit seizes gold worth R3.2m and cars from mine ‘kidnappers’

The Free State High Court has granted the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) a forfeiture order to seize gold worth R3.2m and three vehicles from alleged kidnappers who abducted a Harmony Gold mine employee’s wife.

The Bloemfontein high court granted the order for the seizure of R1.3m in cash, 21 pieces of gold valued at R3.2m and a Jeep Cherokee, BMW and Nissan Almera. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/EVGENYI LASTOCHKIN

The court granted the order for the seizure of R1.3m in cash, 21 pieces of gold worth R3.2m and a Jeep Cherokee, BMW and Nissan Almera.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said Charmaine Botha was abducted from work and held hostage in a shack at Thabong, Welkom, in November 2018.

“Kidnappers then called Johan Botha, who is the husband of Charmaine and also an employee of Harmony Gold mine in the Free State, demanding a brick or a bar of gold in return for the release of his wife.

“Botha reported the matter to his employer and the SAPS. The mine management gave him a bar of gold valued at R6.5m to give to the kidnappers and the wife was released after the kidnappers received the gold,” said Shuping.

Ten people, including Sechaba Seloana, John Taile, Wellington Sithole and Lovemore Ndlovu, were arrested after a police investigation.

Seloana was allegedly found in possession of the Jeep, BMW, R580,000 in cash and 21 pieces of gold worth R3.2m. Sithole and Taile were allegedly found in possession of R524,000 and R260,000. Ndlovu was allegedly found in possession of the Nissan Almera.

Two of the suspects admitted that they played a role in kidnapping Botha and that they cut the bar of gold into small pieces and sold them in Sebokeng.

“Seloana pointed out the shack in which they kept Botha and the farm where the bar of gold was melted or cut into smaller pieces,” Shuping said.

During the application, AFU advocate Eugene Ontong argued that Seloana and others used the vehicles to transport gold from Welkom to Sebokeng. Ontong said they knew the implications if the gold was found in those vehicles.

“He submitted that the vehicles are instrumentalities of crime, and that the cash and 21 pieces of gold are also proceeds of crime,” said Shuping.

The accused face charges of kidnapping, extortion, illicit possession of precious metal and money laundering.

TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)

Iavan Pijoos

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