Drama at King of Bling trial

Two men believed to be friends of flamboyant tycoon William Mbatha arrested outside court for R850,000 house robbery

DRAMA unfolded outside the Johannesburg high court yesterday when police pounced on two men after they were pointed out by a robbery victim.

The men had moments earlier stepped out of court for the appearance of suspected crime mastermind and "king of bling" William "Mashobane" Mbatha.

Everything seemed in order when the men made their way out of the main court entrance and then turned right in the direction of Eloff Street.

Minutes later the men returned, stood in front of the court entrance and proceeded to cross the street towards an FNB bank branch.

And then all hell broke loose.

Four members of the SAPS tactical response team that had escorted Mbatha to court ran across Pritchard Street armed with assault rifles and ordered the two men to lie flat on the sidewalk.

The men seemed startled at the sudden police action but eventually obeyed.

They were searched and police found watches and cellphones in a black shoulder bag. The pair were handcuffed, shackled and taken away in separate police vehicles.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Jeanette Makhubela told Sowetan that one of the suspects was positively identified by a man who was robbed of R850000 in cash, allegedly by Mbatha, in March 2009.

Mbatha and an accomplice allegedly presented themselves as police officers before assaulting Chandar Manjani and Vijay Ghanshamdas and then robbing them of the money, a watch, a cellphone and house and car keys.

Makhubela said investigations were under way to determine if the other suspect was connected to Mbatha.

Mbatha was in court yesterday for a series of armed robberies in which he is alleged to have passed himself off as a cop before robbing his victims.

In December 2008 he allegedly assaulted Yubiao Cai, Andy Qinhen, Merriam Mokgadi and Yun Cai and robbed them of a ladies' watch, silver necklace, wallet, two Silver Star Casino chips valued at R100000 each, another chip worth R1000 as well as an amount of R26350.

In April 2009 Mbatha is again alleged to have stopped Ismail Yacoob Omar at an off-ramp in Alberton, east of Johannesburg, after posing as a police officer. He took two laptops, two cellphones, about R250000, two firearms, four watches, two handbags, firearm licences and jewellery.

Later that month Mbatha, again using the same modus operandi, accosted Peter Mojapelo, assaulted him and hijacked his Mercedes-Benz, ID, driver's licence, clothing, R40000 and two cellphones. The value of the stolen items is said to be R700 000.

Mbatha is facing 24 counts including robbery, kidnapping, possession of firearm and ammunition, pretending to be a police officer and unlawful wearing of a police uniform.

The matter was postponed.