Saturday, July 13, 2024

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Jail term for duo convicted of crude oil theft and damage to a Transnet pipeline

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Two men were sentenced to 15 years in prison for theft of crude oil and R11 million damage to a Transnet fuel pipeline in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Newcastle Regional Court sentenced Boitumelo Mathabatha and MacDonald Ndlovu on Monday after they were found guilty of theft of crude oil and tampering or damaging essential infrastructure.

The crude oil was valued at R400000.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara said police were notified of an abandoned truck found in a field in Newcastle on 20 July 2021.

“The truck was empty but the keys were in the ignition and there were two trailers attached to the truck. There was a fuel pipe attached to the truck and a fresh hole in the ground next to the truck. It was discovered that the tankers were filled with crude oil that the accused had accessed by digging into an extensive underground pipeline belonging to Transnet.”

“The accused had hired the truck and the driver to carry out their plans. Once the hired driver realised that they were stealing, he notified his employer (the truck owner) and Mathabatha and Ndlovu were arrested,” she said.

State prosecutor Advocate Kogi Ramkilawon led the truck driver’s and truck owner’s evidence in court. “Cellphone evidence proved vital for the state in this matter as it linked the accused directly to the crime. In aggravation of the sentence, Ramkilawon told the court that the offence was a premeditated one and was likely linked to a syndicate operation. She said that damage to infrastructure has a huge impact on the country,” said Ramkisson-Kara.

Ramkilawon also led the evidence of a Bidvest manager, who assisted Transnet with security.

“In his testimony, the man said that it costs several million rands to repair damaged essential infrastructure. He added that it takes the soil about 20 years to recover from crude oil spillages,” said Ramkisson-Kara.

She said Mathabatha and MacDonald were sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for theft and 15 years imprisonment for tampering and damaging essential infrastructure.

“Since the sentences will run concurrently, they will serve an effective sentence of 15 years imprisonment. They were also declared unfit to possess a firearm. In addition to the sentence, the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the NPA was granted a preservation order for an amount of approximately R49000 in cash and a Toyota Fortuner,” said Ramkisson-Kara.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, Advocate Elaine Harrison said: “The damaging and theft of fuel from the fuel pipeline causes major financial losses to the economy. Every successful prosecution is indicative of law enforcement agencies addressing the issue. We will continue to vigorously address this crime to ensure that more cases are investigated and successfully prosecuted.”

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