Illegal factory shut down, 13 foreigners arrested, alcohol and cigarettes seized

crime scene tape in building with blurred forensic team background

A group of foreign nationals were arrested for illegally operating a factory in Tongaat, north of Durban, police said on Sunday.

National police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo said that after receiving a complaint about a factory operating illegally, officers went to the premises on Thursday, but it was locked and quiet.

On Friday, information was received that the factory was going to be operational over the weekend and that people were residing on the premises, Naidoo said.

Naidoo said a task team arrived at the factory at midday on Saturday and on initial observation, the factory looked closed, but machine noises were heard coming from inside.

“No activity could be seen around the premises. At that moment two foreigners opened the roller door of the factory. They were questioned about their presence there and they said that they were merely fetching welding machines.

“On informing them that they were to be charged for contravening the disaster management regulations for not being confined to their residences in terms of the Disaster Management Act, they attempted to flee and were arrested,” Naidoo said.

Officers entered the premises through the same roller door and discovered over 90 sealed beer bottles, over 90 beer cans and over 100 cartons of cigarettes.

Three others, who were also found on the premises, could not account for the beer bottles and cigarettes.

According to them, it belonged to their employer.

Naidoo said they denied that there were other people on the premises.

Meanwhile, officers discovered several dormitories with unmade beds and cellphone chargers still plugged into the wall sockets.

A large kitchen and dining area which was “fully stocked” with food also raised questions.

“On conducting an inspection of the premises, an internal door was found to be opened with a fire escape staircase leading to the ceiling.

“Eight foreign nationals were found hiding inside the ceiling and on further inspection of the premises three more foreign nationals were found within the premises,” he said.

The group were arrested and charged under the Disaster Management Act and Immigration Act. The first three suspects were also charged for defeating the ends of justice.

A hard drive with camera footage was also seized to check for evidence that the factory was in fact operational during the lockdown and the alcohol and cigarettes were also seized, Naidoo said.

Naidoo said the department of home affairs’ immigration services were also informed after officers only found 9 passports. He said the suspects were also taken to the local clinic for Covid-19 screening.

In two separate incidents in KwaZulu-Natal, several people were arrested for dealing in liquor.

In Port Shepstone on Friday two people were arrested and alcohol worth millions was seized.

Officers also pounced on a liquor store operating illegally in Sarnia, Pinetown, on Saturday. A variety of alcohol and cigarettes to the value of R250,000 were seized and a suspect arrested. Naidoo said the same suspect was previously released on bail for the same offence.

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