Want to commit a cash heist? R30,000 and a call to prison is all you'll need

03 June 2018 - 00:00 By GRAEME HOSKEN
Police investigate the scene after a heist in East London.
Police investigate the scene after a heist in East London.
Image: Mark Andrews

R30,000 for advice on how to commit heists; R50,000 to hire firearms.

That is the going price to organise cash-in-transit robberies - and it comes from inside South Africa's prisons.

Interviews with a convicted heist kingpin and a criminologist reveal how prisons are "bases and training centres" for the heists.

"I will be phoned for advice. People out there know who I am, what I have done and what I can still do," the kingpin told the Sunday Times.

Mr X, who asked to remain anonymous, was sentenced to multiple life sentences after a multimillion-rand heist in the late 1990s when several guards died.

His advice and the location of weapons, hidden in caches around Gauteng, carry a hefty price tag.

Speaking on his cellphone from a Gauteng prison, he said he asked R30,000 if phoned for advice, and if they were looking for weapons, like "big sticks" [rifles], it increased to R50,000.

"I phone my wife, tell her where to find them [guns] and who to hand them over to."

His method of forcing guards out of the vans: petrol.

He claims the big heists he did were on vans that each carried more than R80-million.

"There are three elements to it: surprise, speed and corrupt cops and security guards. The only ones who know when it's going to happen is us. The cops and the guards never know; they are constantly on the look out, using informers.

"I tell those looking to commit a heist how to choose a site for the ambush, about speed. You have to be off the scene within five minutes or else you must know you are going to war with the cops.

"I tell them about the surveillance which we used to do for up to six months."

He said more vans were being hit because the robbers were not getting the cash.

"These new guys are amateurs, too flashy and take too many risks."

Unisa criminologist Professor Hennie Lochner, who interviewed 21 robbers over two years, confirmed that heists were planned inside prisons.

He said those he interviewed told him that heists would be stopped only if corrupt police were arrested.

"Many said after the heist it was the norm to go to police safe houses to divide up the loot. Even crime intelligence officers from other provinces would arrive and claim part of the loot."

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