Hawks arrest company owners in alleged R4.6 million illegal copper operations

A former South African boxing champion has been arrested for allegedly being involved in an illegal copper operation in Randfontein.

Two men, arrested and charged with the contravention of the Second Hand Goods Act and contravention of the National Environmental Act have been released on R5 000 bail each.

The duo appeared before the Randfontein Regional Court, according to Hawks spokesperson in Gauteng, Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu.

“The additional accused and owners of P&P Commodities, Pierre Coetzer, 60, and Pieter Venter, 50, handed themselves in at the Hawks’ office in Krugersdorp (on Wednesday) where they were subsequently charged,” said Mulamu.

Pierre Coetzer, also known as “Pierre the Lion Heart” among die-hard boxing fans, was a South African Heavyweight Champion and fought Frank Bruno and George Foreman during his career.

Their apprehension comes after an employee, Vernon Michael van der Mescht, 56, was arrested last month at the duo’s business premises, where a truck loaded with copper blisters was impounded by authorities during a multi-disciplinary operation in Randfontein.

“Authorities conducted an operation in November last year which emanated from information received on allegations that a copper manufacturing company, P&P Commodities in Randfontein was operating and melting copper without any of the second-hand goods permits, foundry/refinery licence, combustion licence or any other environmental permit or licences,” continued Mulamu.

The business was successfully closed and copper operations were halted pending their approval for any valid environmental permit or licence application.

During this period, Mulamu said the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development served the accused with a non-compliance notice.

Hawks’ serious organised crime investigation in Krugersdorp received intelligence that P&P Commodities was back in business and has been in operation for about two weeks.

“On 7 February, the Hawks, Randfontein designated second-hand goods officers and the West Rand district municipality environmental department pounced on Mescht, (who was) allegedly loading copper blisters into a truck for distribution in the KwaZulu-Natal province,” according to Mulamu.

She said the investigation team confiscated 42 copper blisters worth about R4.6 million for further investigation.

“Mescht was immediately arrested and released on a R5 000 bail,” said Mulamu.