On Tuesday 23 February 2016 the National Prosecution Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) in Mpumalanga obtained a preservation of property order in the Pretoria High Court in terms whereof they seized cash to the total value of R76 725 714.76 and a Toyota Hilux Double Cab pick-up vehicle. This is the biggest cash seizure in the history of the Mpumalanga AFU and counts amongst the biggest cash seizures ever done by the AFU in South Africa.

The seizure is the result of a joint multi-agency investigation between the South African Revenue Services’ Customs and Excise Division; the South African Police Services’ Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation Unit and the AFU.

It follows on an incident that occurred in the early morning hours of Christmas day, 25 December 2015, when the SARS Customs Division at the Lebombo border post seized 4 997 422 US Dollars; 22 170 Euros and R20 000 from two Mozambican nationals, namely, Faizel Mamade Assane and Amade Agy Abdulah.

The cash was discovered in one of two hidden compartments in the Toyota Hilux, of which Assane is the owner and title holder. The hidden compartment that contained the cash was designed in the loading bin of the Hilux. The other custom made hidden compartment in the canopy of the Hilux was empty.

Assane and Abdulah are suspected to be part of an international syndicate that smuggles bulk cash that represents the proceeds of unlawful activities. The cash appears to have been destined for the Middle East via the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Assane was issued with eleven (11) Mozambican passports and Abdulah with five (5).

The evidence suggests that the cash and the Hilux constitute the proceeds of unlawful activities and/or were used as instruments to commit the following offences: Various contraventions of the Customs and Excise Act; Fraud; Money Laundering in contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA); contraventions of the Currency and Exchange Act and the Exchange Control Regulations; contraventions of the Banks’ Act and contravening the provisions of section 36 of the General Law Amendment Act which criminalises the possession of suspected stolen property.

The facts of the case are consistent with a particular modus operandi that is adopted by suspects who smuggle illicit bulk cash in and through South Africa and out of the country from, in particular, the OR Tambo International Airport. The AFU filed an expert affidavit as part of its application to the Pretoria High Court wherein the court was enlightened about illicit bulk cash smuggling in and through South Africa.

Assane and Abdulah appeared yesterday (26 February 2016) in the Barberton Magistrates’ Court for the mentioned offences and their criminal case was postponed to 27 May 2016 for further investigations.

The SAPS, SARS and the AFU are committed to combat organised crime, especially illicit bulk cash smuggling. The AFU will subsequently lodge another High Court application for the forfeiture of the cash and the Hilux to the State.

The provisions of POCA are a very effective tool in addressing these types of crimes.