A van owner who was hired to transport stolen juice, bottles, spices, a computer and a safe filled with cash has lost his vehicle to the state after the Port Elizabeth High Court ruled that the vehicle was used to carry out a crime.
The man had reportedly been promised R300 to ferry the thief to a beverage and bottling facility called Henties, in the Greenbushes industrial area, in January 2018.
“CCTV cameras installed at the premises of Henties revealed that the respondent, driving the van, entered the Henties premises early on Sunday morning 7 January 2018 at 6.52am, with an unknown accomplice and left the premises at 7.35am, in the same van. A guard at the boom gate had reported, surprisingly so, that he thought the two men were there on legitimate business,” this week’s judgment by Judge Elna Revelas read.
Just a day after the crime, the getaway van was seen at a KFC in Mill Park and its driver was arrested.
A search of the vehicle led to the discovery of an empty juice bottle from Henties and a crowbar with traces of paint the same colour as the one which was used to yank open the factory doors. These two items tied the van and its owner to the crime scene.
The man did not deny he had been at Henties the morning the crime was committed. He maintained he had a transport and delivery business, and used the van for that purpose, claiming that he was merely performing a loading and delivery service for a man named Zola, who undertook to pay him R300 for picking up a load at Henties.
“The respondent alleges that he waited outside Henties while Zola went inside and loaded the goods into the van. According to the respondent, he did not suspect that Zola was involved in anything untoward and he also never asked Zola, who was a regular client of his, about the nature of the job in question,” Revelas said.
He claimed to have driven Zola to another location, where the items which had been in his van were transferred to a Nissan truck.
The van owner claimed to have never seen Zola again, adding that he also never received the R300 he had been promised.
The state, however, applied for the man to lose his van, stating that the vehicle had been used in the commission of a crime.
Revelas questioned whether the van owner was oblivious to the crime which was being committed in his presence. In his defence, the owner claimed he had used his van for business and never asked his clients questions.
Revelas said it was “highly unlikely that Zola would have been capable of carrying and loading such a large safe without assistance”. She said If the respondent had helped Zola, which he must have done because the circumstances demanded it, he would have seen evidence of a burglary.
“Any alleged innocence or ignorance at that point was clearly willful and disingenuous. The cumulative effect of the evidence against the respondent is overwhelming, and the probabilities indicate the respondent’s involvement in the offence committed,” said Revelas.
She ruled that the van be forfeited to the state. The vehicle will be auctioned and the proceeds deposited into the criminal asset recovery account.