Sukulwenkosi Dube Plumtree Correspondent—
Border Control and Minerals Unit police officers have arrested a man who was trying to smuggle 28,5 kilogrammes of gold with an estimated value of about $1 million into Botswana. National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday confirmed the arrest of the man at Plumtree Border Post on Wednesday around 8AM.
She identified the suspect as Pudohope James Rove who she said had hidden the gold in a secret compartment in his vehicle’s loading box. Although she could not immediately give the value of the gold, a source within the police Border Control and Minerals Unit put the figure at about $970,000. “I can confirm that police from the minerals border and control unit intercepted gold that was being smuggled out of the country through the Plumtree Border Post,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba said.
“The suspect was driving a Toyota hilux truck and was on his way to Botswana. He was intercepted at the exit gate after completing all Immigration and Zimra formalities.” She said police detectives who were on duty stopped the vehicle and conducted a search. They discovered a false compartment in the loading box and upon carrying further searches they discovered 76 pieces of smelted gold which had a total weight of 28,541kg.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said Rove was in police custody and is expected to appear in court today. She said he faces charges under the Gold Trade Act after being found in possession of gold without a licence and the Customs and Exercise Act which guarded against smuggling of gold.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said the arrest of Rove and few others recently was evidence that the police had intensified efforts to bring gold smugglers to book. She warned those who were in the habit of smuggling the country’s minerals to desist from their criminal activities as they risk arrest. “We would like to warn all those who are in the habit of smuggling our minerals to stop. The police will descend heavily on such people.
“We’ve intensified operations along all our borders and this arrest and that of the other suspect at Beitbridge Border Post is testimony that we’re committed to stopping smuggling of minerals such as gold,” she said. Last month, two men were arrested at the Plumtree Border Post while trying to smuggle about 5,3kg of gold.
Strydom Arthur, 29, and Lombard Dale, 28, had stashed the gold valued at $178,976 in a false compartment that was housing the spare wheel in their vehicle’s boot. Two other gold smugglers were also intercepted at the same border while trying to smuggle 8kg of gold valued at $304,545 recently. Francis Maranjesi, 47, and Nathan Mnaba, 29, had concealed the 12 gold bars in a fuel tank of their vehicle.
The country is estimated to be losing gold worth millions of dollars every month as a result of smuggling of the precious mineral to neighbouring countries such as Botswana and South Africa.