Suspected Johann Rupert jewellery thief nabbed in Soweto

Hawks pounce on alleged burglar three years after SA’s biggest jewellery heist

Graeme Hosken Senior reporter
The hole hacked in the wall to get into the vault where a stash of expensive watches was kept.
The hole hacked in the wall to get into the vault where a stash of expensive watches was kept.
Image: Supplied

A suspected thief, allegedly linked to the burglary and theft of SA billionaire Johann Rupert’s Johannesburg jewellery warehouse, has been arrested by the Hawks in Soweto.

The theft occurred at Ballywoods Office Park in Bryanston on August 9 2019, when 15 men, escorted by bogus security guards, stole an estimated R300m worth of high-end watches and jewellery belonging to Rupert’s Richemont Luxury Goods (RLG).

The thieves’ target was luxury watches, necklaces and earrings which had been flown into SA.

RLG is part of Rupert’s Richemont business group. Through Vendome Distributors, it supplies boutique jewellery stores with items such as diamond watches by Montblanc and Cartier, two of the brands owned by Richemont.

None of the jewellery has ever been recovered, with most of it believed to have been sold to overseas buyers.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Hawks spokesperson warrant officer Bonnie Nxumalo said detectives from the Hawks’ Germiston-based serious organised crime unit followed up on information which led them to Soweto, where they tracked and nabbed 39-year-old Mduduzi Nxumalo on Monday.

She said he appeared in the Randburg magistrate’s court on Tuesday on charges of business robbery.

Nxumalo said the accused was due back in court on August 1.

“It is alleged that on the night of August 9 2019, a vehicle with armed men entered the business premises on Ballyclare Drive in Sandton, where they tied the security guards with cables and broke into a jewellery warehouse.”

She said the suspects stole jewellery “worth more than R26m”.

Asked for the names of the jewellery owners, Nxumalo said the investigating officer “did not know”.

At the time of the burglary, SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE reported that the thieves spent nine hours chiselling and hammering their way into the vault housing the jewellery.

The theft, which saw the robbers entering the premises and escaping without firing a shot, is believed to be SA’s biggest jewellery heist to date.


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.