Curious case of dodgy dollars in a mystery safe

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Curious case of dodgy dollars in a mystery safe

The Hawks were summoned after a man skidded into a KZN police station with a fanciful tale and a mysterious lockbox

Journalist


In a curious case of happenstance, a courier delivered a safe stuffed with nearly R30m in dodgy US dollars right into the hands of Hawks detectives – becoming an unwitting ally in a high-level forex probe.
The bizarre tale began in December 2018 when an informal deliveryman – of Hammarsdale, west of Durban – was approached by a prospective client who needed a safe delivered to Blue Lagoon.
The cold steel box was heaved into the bakkie’s loadbed and the driver and his client – described as a Congolese national – set off for the coast.
Once there, they rendezvoused with another man, with the driver watching the meeting from behind his windshield.
A muted and hushed conversation between the pair became increasingly heated and at one point both the Congolese man and the other pulled handguns from their waistbands.
The sight of the glinting steel was impetus enough for the deliveryman to know he’d driven into trouble – and he sped off with the contentious safe still on the back of his bakkie.
When he skidded into the parking lot of the police station in Mpumalanga township, he had the fanciful story and a safe to show for it.
When officers examined the lockbox they found white powder in the seams and, suspecting it held a cache of drugs, they called in the Hawks.
Hawks sources told Times Select the tale was narrated to them by the driver – a story that became the basis for their investigation.
Weeks passed as the powder was sent away to a distant laboratory and, when the results were returned, the investigations team learnt the powder was benign.
Next, the police’s bomb squad was roped into the probe and they used mobile x-ray equipment to scan the safe.
With drugs ruled out and x-rays providing an assurance that it was in no danger of exploding, detectives hauled the safe down to the fire station in Pietermaritzburg where firemen used angle grinders and hydraulic rescue equipment to prise open the heavy steel door.
As it was cleaved open, bundles of loot spilled out. R30m of loot, to be exact.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said the investigation was well under way and in the crosshairs are the two men who the driver left at Blue Lagoon.
“We can confirm that an inquiry was opened by Pietermaritzburg Serious Organised Crime Hawks members after the safe was handed to them last year,” he said.
“Members are still trying to establish if the recovered cash is genuine or counterfeit, and they are busy investigating the whereabouts of the owner,” he added.
Sources confirmed that the dollars were being tested to determine whether they were real or fake – and that the Congolese man was in the wind.
The cache of cash, they said, was likely the spoils of a counterfeiting or money-laundering syndicate.

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