Sunday, 22 August 2021

Bloemfontein: Ten more suspects between the age of 34 and 54 were arrested on Saturday; 21 August 2021 in Bethlehem and Senekal. Their arrests were effected during the second phase of the project driven investigation carried out by the Free State Hawks Serious Commercial Crime Investigation team in concert with Eskom Investigators.

This project driven investigation ensued in May 2020 in Bloemfontein, Free State probing the illicit sale of electricity called “Ghost vending” facilitated by illegal vendors who have in their possession illegal electricity vending machines. ‘Ghost vending’ involves the illegal sales and purchases of electricity.

The syndicates reportedly operate in groups nationally and generate income of approximately R150 000 to R250 000 per day from illicit sales of electricity.

They are highly organised, well-equipped, closely networked and are difficult to track due to the fact that these machines do not transact on a network or at a single place, but are constantly roving.

The suspects were allegedly responsible for selling illegal electricity to pre-paid customers.

The illegal practice of selling prepaid electricity results in multi-million rand losses to Eskom per annum. This loss of revenue and the increase in non-technical losses contributes significantly to the electricity woes of the country.

These arrests come at a time when the country has been plunged into load shedding due to the bleak power situation.

Several gadgets, electricity pre-paid vouchers and book keeping records of customers were seized for further investigation.

The Provincial Head of the Hawks Major General Kubrandran Moodley commended the team of the investigators for continuing to crack down the sale of this illegal pre-prepaid electricity.

The National Head of the DPCI, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya commend the commitment demonstrated by the team. He also encourage the community not to support organised criminal groups.

“I call upon the community to refrain from purchasing electricity from thieves. The process of such sales do not contribute to the development of infrastructure that are needed to boost the growth of our economy which will result in the creation of jobs. We should rather report these illegal activities to the authorities.”

Further arrests are expected.

All the suspects are expected to appear in the Fochville Magistrates’ Court on Monday, 23 August 2021.