n SA Crime Quarterly - Putting paid to the untouchables? The effects of dissolving the Directorate of Special Operations and the Specialised Commercial Crime Units




When law enforcement agencies arrest abalone poachers on the Western Coast of South Africa, they may not be aware that the drying and processing of the delicacy takes place in Gauteng and that the buyers are organised crime networks in China. It will not be evident that the criminals use the profits (at about R1 400 per kilogram) to buy drugs for the local Southern African market. The syndicate or loose network of crime groups may have a distribution chain of dispensable individuals of different nationalities encompassing several countries, specialising in particular aspects of the trade and dealing in a wide variety of illegal goods. Indeed, the arrest of the poachers is unlikely to reveal that the profits are being used to barter for drugs and that a large number of illegal and apparently legal companies are being used to transfer money across the globe. Catching these kinds of transnational, cross-border, multi-ethnic and flexible criminal groups is difficult unless law enforcement agencies have a multi-faceted strategy, use the skills of a wide range of personnel and have the time and resources to investigate and prosecute them effectively. Traditional law enforcement is geared towards arresting the criminal 'runners' rather than the 'kingpins'. The DSO and the SCCU acquired a reputation as the 'untouchables' - units that are admired, revered and feared - and it seems unlikely that their replacement will enjoy the same success and reputation.


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