Cops set trap after former chief executive became target of attack
In a town that doesn’t see much in the way of violent crime, they came armed with R-4 and R-5 rifles – their tar- get: a prominent South African businesswoman. But the four men who had planned to rob former Billabong South Africa chief executive Cheron Kraak’s Jeffreys Bay house never got there, thanks to a joint operation that involved several police units and a private investiga- tor and his team.
The men, all from outside Jef- freys Bay, were arrested after a high-speed car chase during which they tried to kill the undercover operative who had led them into the trap.
The ordeal had begun days ear- lier, when Kraak received informa- tion that she could be the target of a house robbery. “I didn’t know what to do, so I turned to a private investigator,” she explained.
The private investigator was Christian Botha, who is based in East London. After arriving in Jef- freys Bay, Botha’s employee was able to make contact with the gang and infiltrate it.
The gang had shown interest in how much money Kraak had in her home, and the operative said he could help them. “What happened was that our informant arranged to meet them at 6pm and then take them to the house,” said Botha. But behind the scenes, Botha, together with the police, had arranged that they would intercept the heavily armed gang in an isolated part of Jeffreys Bay.
The spot was chosen so that if there was a shootout, there would be little chance of bystanders get- ting caught in the crossfire. Botha’s undercover operative, who he doesn’t want named, would be in a white Toyota Quantum with the robbers. Police spokeswoman Inspector Gerda Swart said: “The informa- tion we had was that they had firearms, but we did not know what they had. But it ended up being the right decision at the right time.”
Not far from Kraak’s house, police tried to force the Quantum to stop. A high-speed car chase ensued. As they drove, the robbers threw their firearms out of the vehicle. “They turned on my agent, and started saying ‘You cheat, you cheat’,” said Botha.
The operative was able to jump out of the car, just as police were bringing it to a stop. He wasn’t injured. Police stormed the vehicle, handcuffed the men and laid them out next to the van. What they found lying further down the road startled the local police force. There were R-4 and R-5 rifles with full magazines. Also collected was a Z88 automatic pistol and a handgun police have yet to identify. The serial numbers were filed off.
“This is a different kind of crime, I have never seen criminals here so heavily armed,” said Swart. All the firearms were stolen – the R-4 was traced to a security company in Joburg, and the R-5 was owned by the ex-Transkei military or police. The men were aged 23, 24, 28 and 40, said Swart. The four are scheduled to appear in the Humansdorp Magistrate’s Court tomorrow, facing charges of attempted robbery and illegal possession of un- licensed firearms and ammunition.
“I was staring out at the sea this morning, it was quite a surreal experi- ence, I could be dead. I really think they would have killed me,” Kraak said yesterday.