Maliki Erick Ngobeni was on Monday convicted and sentenced to 15 years for dealing in drugs, two years after the Hawks intercepted a vehicle he was travelling in near the border post with eSwatini (Swaziland).
Members of the Hawks from the Richards Bay Serious Organised Crime unit on May 4, 2017, received information about a vehicle that was travelling from the Golela Border towards Pongola in Zululand.
Local police were alerted and the vehicle was intercepted on the N2, near the Sitilo Game Farm.
The Hawks then swooped in.
They searched the vehicle and found 145 bags of heroin powder with an approximate street value of R101 million.
Ngobeni and passengers were arrested.
The subsequent investigation by the Hawks revealed that Ngobeni was the mastermind planning to distribute the narcotics, procured from neighbouring Mozambique, on the streets of Johannesburg.
Bloomberg reported that a research paper by Enact, a European Union-funded initiative to mitigate the impact of transnational organised crime, found that as much as $800 million (R11.26bn) worth of heroin is shipped annually from the beaches of Mozambique to neighbouring countries and to Europe.
Produced in Afghanistan and Pakistan, heroin is shipped to Mozambique's coast with motorized wooden boats, which can carry up to a ton of the drug in hidden compartments, according to the Enact report.
From there, it's transported by road to neighbouring South Africa.
Some is sold to local users, but most of the heroin is destined for Europe, said the researchers, who include Mark Shaw, Simone Haysom, and Peter Gastrow.
The Bloomberg report also explained that traffickers appear to be increasingly using east and southern Africa as a land-based Balkan route has become more difficult to get the opioid into western Europe.
Police spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo confirmed Ngobeni was convicted and sentenced in the Pongola Regional Court to 15 years of direct imprisonment for dealing in drugs.
His bail was successfully opposed and he appeared in court several times before he was convicted and sentenced on Monday.
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