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Sunday, October 18, 1998 Published at 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK


World: Africa

'Police helped South African car-jacker'

The streets of Johannesburg have become notorious for car-jackings

One of South Africa's most notorious criminals has said that police helped him in running a vast car hijacking syndicate.

Xolani Mlilwana, currently serving a 125-year sentence in a Pretoria jail, told South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper that:

  • police officers provided escorts so his hijacked vehicles could make their escape without being held up in traffic

  • police helped him obtain forged licences for stolen vehicles

  • police helped him to escape after his first arrest, with one sergeant accepting a bribe of R10,000 ($1,800)

  • the same sergeant left offices at Johannesburg's police headquarters unlocked overnight so that Mlilwana could remove dockets relating to his case

Mlilwana made the allegations to the newspaper in instalments, using the 10 minutes a day he was allowed on the prison pay phone, and has now supplied sworn affadavits detailing his activities.

The newspaper says Mlilwana supplied the name of the sergeant he says he bribed.

A spokesman for the anti-hijack unit dismissed the allegations: "All he wants to do is to get someone to take him out of prison and escape."

But Security Minister Sydney Mufamadi has reportedly agreed to meet Mlilwana later this week to discuss the allegations futher.

Returning stolen cars

The paper reports that Mlilwana, who admits to 30 car hijackings, is now trying to establish his credentials by returning stolen cars to their rightful owners, using his contacts outside the prison. The first car was returned to its owner on Saturday.

Mlilwana, 25, was sentenced in April after pleading guilty to 11 counts of car hijacking and to a charge relating to his escape from custody.

In August, Mlilwana he made a statement about police corruption to the police watchdog, the Independent Complaints Directorate. Its spokesman Jabu Dhlamini told the newspaper that Mlilwane's allegations were being investigated.

Mlilwana says he has received death threats in prison: "I expect any day I will be dead, but before I die I will make sure everything is known," he told the newspaper.

According to the newspaper, Mlilwana began his criminal career by hiring cars with forged cheques, and then selling the vehicles. As this method "was taking too long", he and six other men began approaching car dealers, arranging to test-drive vehicles which they then hijacked.

He operated across South Africa for more than four years, selling some of the stolen cars across the border in Mozambique, and accepting drugs as well as cash in payment.

BBC Africa Correspondent Jeremy Vine in Johannesburg says the allegations touch a nerve in a country where both police corruption and car hijacking have become serious concerns.



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