Three men are scheduled to appear in the Westonaria Magistrate’s Court after being arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) on charges of dealing in illicit gold manufacturing, with an estimated street value of R2 million.

Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu said “A multidisciplinary approach driven operation by Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation in Krugersdorp and Sibanye Stillwater was conducted yesterday (Thursday) where three suspects were apprehended for illicit gold-manufacturing operations”.

“The team successfully identified the suspected premises where the illegal gold-manufacturing operations were conducted, and kept surveillance”.

Mulamu said upon arrival at Ten Acres plot in Westonaria to execute a search warrant, the investigation team intercepted and dismantled two rooms fully capacitated with gold-manufacturing operations.

Three men aged 18, 20 and 28 who were found busy with the illicit gold-manufacturing operations at the site were apprehended.

Mulamu further said “Police seized four big phendukas (machines used to process gold), 50 tons of gold-bearing material, electrical motors, gas cylinders, crucibles and other chemicals”.

Hawks Gauteng provincial head Major-General Ebrahim Kadwa has commended the officers’ efforts in clamping down and dismantling illicit operations, which have a plethora of adverse effects on the South African economy.

In January, law-enforcement agents arrested three suspected smugglers after 73.5kg of gold as well as foreign currency were found in their hand luggage at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The trio had flown into South Africa from Madagascar and were en route to Dubai via Ethiopia.

Airport officials alerted authorities after a security scanner identified irregular images. A multidisciplinary team including the SAPS and the South African Revenue Service customs officials pounced on the trio at the international arrival terminals.

Officials, on further questioning and inspection of the suspects’ hand luggage, discovered the gold bars, worth R61 million, and some foreign currency.