RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane said the cars were tracked in 2017 in a mass operation that included the police’s crime intelligence, anti-corruption, and vehicle safety storage (VSS) units; the National Prosecuting Authority; and the RTMC’s own anti-corruption unit.
The operation unearthed a huge car-smuggling syndicate in which government employees, including police officers, were involved.
“The operation was launched after months of investigation and analysis of data on NaTIS [National Traffic Information System] revealing a pattern of how vehicles were fraudulently registered on the system by the Eastern Cape department of transport help desk,” said Zwane.
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A total of 17 suspects, including police officers, transport department officials and foreign nationals, were arrested.
“[The] foreign nationals are suspected to be the kingpins,” Zwane said.
“Out of the 520 vehicles, 91 were confirmed to be illegal vehicles using fraudulent licence discs purporting to be from neighbouring countries such as Malawi. Some of the vehicles used false registration plates from Cape Town and KZN as a way of misleading traffic officers into believing that the vehicles were of South African origin,” Zwane said.
Meanwhile, the 17 face a string of charges including forgery, money laundering, common law fraud, corruption, selling of illicit goods, contravention of the Customs and Excise Act and the National Road Traffic Act.
All of them are out on R2,000 bail.