South African police swooped on platinum crime gangs on Tuesday, arresting 40 people in their drive to stamp out theft from mines and illegal trafficking in the metal, police divisional commissioner Johan de Beer said.
Reuters reports that the arrests were made in the Marikana and Rustenburg areas of North-West province, the heartland of the platinum industry dominated by Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum.
“The precious metals industry faces an international and continuous threat by organized crime syndicates who orchestrate the theft of platinum group metals at the source of production,” de Beer told Reuters. “The theft and illegal trafficking in PGMS can also be directly linked to well planned international money laundering schemes.”
Mine employees and police officers were among those held as the result of a two-year undercover investigation, Reuters reported police saying.
South Africa is the world’s biggest platinum producer.