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How a hijacking syndicate works in South Africa

Hijackings in South Africa have drastically increased since the winding down of lockdown regulations, as criminal syndicates need to make up for “lost income”.

TopAuto spoke to MasterDrive to find out more about how these syndicates work, why they choose the vehicles that they do, and what eventually happens to the cars once they are stolen.

How syndicates work

Hijacking syndicates operate in a similar fashion to drug cartels, and often use low-ranking criminals that have a connection to the syndicate in some way to carry out the attacks, said MasterDrive.

Usually, these thieves were once part of the criminal organisation and are looking “to make easy money, as they do the dirty work on behalf of syndicates.”

The people at the top of the organisation field orders from clients for specific vehicles, which are then relayed to the lower-ranking criminals who must do the job.

MasterDrive said vehicles are generally chosen due to high demand for parts of that particular model, while “some vehicles are targeted for their capabilities – e.g. 4×4 double cabs.”

In order to get their hands on a vehicle, criminals will identify the specific car they are after in a public area – often in a shopping centre parking lot –  and follow that vehicle home, where they will then hijack it, said MasterDrive.

“Most of the time the vehicle they are looking for has already been ordered, now it is just a matter of finding this vehicle to deliver to the syndicate.”

Where the cars go

After a car is hijacked, some will be directly driven or transported over the border to the buyers that ordered them.

However, they can also be kept in the country either for spare parts, to be re-sold, or to be used as a clone vehicle in other crimes, said MasterDrive.

Occasionally, the hijacker will even park the stolen vehicle at an airport before it is shipped over the border or stripped down – as this is one of the least suspicious places to park a car for a long period of time.

There are also many opportunities to get away from the police if a pursuit takes place.

To find out more about protecting yourself from a potential hijacking, read: What to do if you are the target of a hijacking


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