By Graeme Hosken
A suspected drug smuggling ring apparently using light aircraft to transport millions of rands' worth of dagga across the country from a plantation outside Pretoria has been cracked.
The syndicate, whose main operations were conducted on a smallholding in Kameeldrift, north of the city, was uncovered yesterday after a tip-off to police who seized more than R1 million worth of dagga.
Police declined to confirm allegations that the tip-off came from disgruntled farm workers.
Declined to confirm allegations that the tip-off came from disgruntled farm workers
The hint saw numerous members of the Pretoria public order policing unit raid the 23ha smallholding.
The smallholding is situated close to an airstrip, which sources say was used by the gang to smuggle the narcotics across the country.
During their raid police found 1 200 dagga plants growing in two greenhouses hundreds of metres in length and valued at nearly R1 million.
Searches of the hothouses led to the discovery of dagga plants in various stages of maturity ranging from saplings to fully grown trees.
Some of the dagga plants growing inside the greenhouses, which were fitted with special irrigation systems, were more than 3m tall with leaves bigger than a man's hand.
Further searches of the smallholding led to the discovery of a small warehouse where police found tightly sealed bags of dried dagga in a chest freezer and in cooler boxes, a number of which contained pieces of paper with the consignment's destination.
According to sources the syndicate is believed to have begun its operations in June last year and sells the dagga across the country.
Sources, who asked not to be named, said they were following up information that the gang used light aircraft to ferry the drugs across the country.
"Because there are so many small airstrips in these areas, which have a large number of smallholdings, no suspicion is raised when small planes take off and land throughout the day and night.
"This makes these areas ideal places for the syndicate to operate as their movements do not raise any suspicions," he said.
Provincial police spokesperson Captain Julia Claassen confirmed the raid. She said police also seized a substantial amount of dried dagga and dagga seeds hidden in plastic bags in a freezer as well as in cooler boxes.
Claassen said the three men who were arrested in the operation, who were aged 29, 30 and 60, would appear in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on charges of cultivating dagga, possession of narcotics and dealing in drugs.
Asked for comment on allegations that the gang used light aircraft to transport their narcotics, Claassen said the investigation was still continuing.
"I cannot comment on that, but what I can say is that the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests are expected," she said.
This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on February 05, 2010
|Address:||Plantation outside Pretoria|
|Crime Date/Time:||5 Feb 2010, 00:02 AM|
|Reported By:||Report A Crime|
|Reported Date:||5 Feb 2010, 12:02 PM|