Reptiles and drugs found during police raid

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

A South African and a Malawi national appeared briefly in the Middelburg regional court yesterday in connection with the discovery of a drug laboratory and equipment used to manufacture drugs.

Johannes Stals, 40, and his Malawian co-accused, Islam Leonard, were not asked to plead to charges of illegal possession of drugs, dealing in drugs and operating an illegal reptile park.

Both were remanded in custody pending their next court appearance on February 6 for a formal bail application.

The men were arrested on Monday afternoon after the Mpumalanga organised crime unit, acting on a tip-off, raided a double-storey house in Sundra, where drugs were allegedly being manufactured.

Senior Superintendent Obed Ngwenya told Sowetan:

"We found the Malawian man inside. When we went upstairs, we discovered a number of machines, equipment as well as chemicals and drugs that were still being dried. There was a lot of smoke, meaning the operation was in progress."

He said the exhibits police recovered were estimated at R7 million. The raid also led to the arrest of Stals, who was not in the house at the time, he said.

Further police investigations led to the discovery of an illegal reptile park at premises at Riley Road in Bedfordview.

"There were crocodiles, snakes and a number of other reptiles that had been kept there without a licence," said Ngwenya.

He added that the reptiles were worth more than R200000.

Ngwenya said members of the SA Parks Board were also part of the raid and took the reptiles to an undisclosed location.

Ngwenya said police were investigatingthe existence or involvement of an international crime syndicate.