Ten more suspects between the age of 34 and 54 were arrested in Bethlehem and Senekal on Saturday, 21 August. The suspects were allegedly responsible for selling illegal electricity to prepaid customers.
According to Captain Christopher Singo, their arrests form part of the second phase of the project-driven investigation carried out by the Free State Hawks Serious Commercial Crime Investigation team along with Eskom investigators.
“This project-driven investigation ensued in May of 2020 in Bloemfontein, probing the illicit sale of electricity called ‘Ghost vending’ – the illegal sale and purchase of electricity – facilitated by illegal vendors who have illegal electricity vending machines in their possession,” said Singo.
From the illicit sales of electricity, the syndicates reportedly generate an income of approximately R150 000 to R250 000 per day. “They are highly organised, well-equipped, closely networked and are difficult to track due to the fact that these machines do not transact on a network or at a single place, but are constantly roving.”
According to Singo, the illegal practice of selling prepaid electricity results in multi-million rand losses to Eskom per annum. “This loss of revenue and the increase in non-technical losses contribute significantly to the electricity woes of the country.”
Several gadgets, electricity prepaid vouchers and book keeping records of customers were seized for further investigation.
All the suspects are expected to appear in the Fochville Magistrate’s Court on Monday, 23 August, with more arrests to follow.
Compiled by Justine Fortuin