Drugs lab in mansion bust
A makeshift laboratory in a double-storey mansion in the heart of the upmarket Pretoria suburb of Waterkloof Heights operated undetected for two years, churning out huge amounts of cheap drugs.
The tranquility of the leafy suburb, home to top politicians and ambassadors, where houses are priced in the millions, was broken yesterday by heavily armed members of the Organised Crime Unit, who scaled the electric fence around the property to swoop on the tik (methamphetamine) makers.
Police surprised two men in blue overalls hard at work allegedly making the drug, and confiscated manufacturing equipment and quantities of the drug with an estimated street value of more than R500000.
One of the suspects later led the police to a home in a residential complex in Monument Park, where more drugs and manufacturing equipment were found.
By late afternoon, the operation had netted tik with an estimated street value of R2-million.
Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the police had found several sculptures believed to be intended to conceal the drug in transit.
He said the Hawks had been keeping an eye on the Waterkloof property for some time.
"We have arrested two Nigerians with asylum permits believed to be part of a drug syndicate. One of them took us to the complex where the two live and we found more chemicals, manufacturing equipment and drugs," he said.
According to Dlamini, the arrested men had been renting the Waterkloof mansion for about two years. They would not reveal who owned the property.
The house, which looked as though it had not been cleaned in two years, contained no furniture, except for a rickety old supermarket fridge. The walls, and the ceiling in the lounge, were stained with smoke believed to have been generated by burning chemicals.
The gate was covered with a grey nylon cloth to keep out prying eyes. The yard was littered with heaps of dry leaves and tree branches floated in the algae-infested swimming pool.
"The chemicals explode occasionally, resulting in the nasty splashes you see on the walls and ceiling," said a policeman.
Police believe the chemicals used to manufacture the drug, including acetone and toluene, were measured, mixed in the kitchen and then poured into large glass test tubes and heated on the electric stove before being taken to the pantry, where the final product was filtered and dried.
Armed police standing guard at the gate drew the attention of passers-by in luxury cars, who slowed down to see what was going on before driving off.
Dlamini said the suspects had been charged with the manufacturing and possession of drugs. They will appear in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court tomorrow.
A black BMW X5 and Corsa SUV bakkie found on the premises have been impounded.
The acting chairman of the Brooklyn Community Policing Forum, Danie Basson, said people should take the trouble to get to know their neighbours.
"I hope the tip-off came from the neighbours because most people, especially in those surroundings, are not interested in who lives next door.
"The discovery of this laboratory shows the great importance of getting to know your neighbour," he said.