Au­thor delves into SA cash-heist wave

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEWS - BAR­BARA HOLLANDS

SHE was a founder mem­ber and co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the SABC’s hard-hit­ting Spe­cial As­sign­ment for nine years, but now the for­mer face of the in­ves­tiga­tive news show, An­neliese Burgess, lives in sleepy Sun­rise-on-Sea east near East London where she has writ­ten Heist! South Africa’s Cash-In-Tran­sit Epi­demic Un­cov­ered.

Since mov­ing to the coast Burgess has not slipped into a lethar­gic, sea­side ex­is­tence, nor has her jour­nal­is­tic drive been dulled.

In fact her re­cently launched book, which delves into the in­iq­ui­tous heart of these crimes is metic­u­lously in­ves­ti­gated and writ­ten with the story-telling skill of a great in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist.

Her book dubs cash-in-tran­sit heists as “a na­tional crime emer­gency”.

“This is not ran­dom crime,” said Burgess, who was born in Indwe and landed up liv­ing back in the re­gion six years ago.

“It is highly or­gan­ised and highly lu­cra­tive and astro­nom­i­cal amounts of money just dis­ap­pear into the crim­i­nal econ­omy.”

She said one of the most shock­ing out­comes of her in­ves­ti­ga­tion was how lit­tle of the stolen money was found.

“In the 10 heists fea­tured in my book, al­most half-a-bil­lion rands was net­ted. Of that, only about R33-mil­lion was ever re­cov­ered and R14-mil­lion of that was sub­se­quently re-stolen from a police vault.”

An­other alarm­ing up­shot of her probe was the fact that mem­bers of the police were com­plicit in seven of the 10 heists she wrote about.

In one heist where R104-mil­lion was stolen in Wit­bank, the gang leader was a police de­tec­tive. “He was one of the first re­spon­ders at the crime scene, tak­ing state­ments and pre­tend­ing to be a police of­fi­cer when he was in fact the master­mind be­hind the whole thing . . . the in­volve­ment of police in this crime is deep.”

And, while she refers to her book as an un­cov­er­ing rather than an ex­posé, Burgess said she also wanted to write a “rol­lick­ing cops and rob­bers story”.

“I wanted it to be a good read in the ‘true crime’ genre. My favourite part of the book is the ac­counts of the cops and pros­e­cu­tors who bring these crim­i­nals to book.”

AN­NELIESE BURGESS

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