R400m cocaine-in-a-boat accused linked by ‘encrypted app’ Anom

Some of the cocaine recovered from the hull of the boat. File photo.
Some of the cocaine recovered from the hull of the boat. File photo.
Image: Hawks

Suspects implicated in a huge drug bust in which 800kg of cocaine was found in a boat being towed on a Gauteng freeway used encrypted devices — which are used by criminal syndicates abroad — to communicate.

This was revealed by an investigating officer during the ongoing bail application of five of the suspects, charged with allegedly dealing in drugs worth R400m, in the Pretoria magistrate’s court.

The officer, who requested not to be identified, said the five had been positively identified through their use of Anom.

This type of modified cellphone-based app is widely used by syndicates abroad, allowing users to send messages and photos with end-to-end encryption, according to the New York Times.

Niel Pieter van Zyl, 38, Michael Norman, Rashied Baderoen, 48, Rafiek Baderoen, 44, and Jaco de Kock, 48, continued their bail application on Tuesday. They told the court they intend to plead not guilty. Co-accused Valdas Tenikaitis earlier indicated he would abandon his bid for bail.

The case is linked to a huge drug bust in June in which a stash of compressed, pure cocaine was found inside a boat being towed on a freeway.

“All accused but accused two [Tenikaitis] had the devices. They also avoided meeting each other in person. They were identified through GPS locations and surveillance,” said the investigating officer.

The devices, he said, were used solely to conceal identities.

“These devices can only be used by people participating in criminal activities. The device comes with a username where identity is not exposed. The device automatically deletes the message to a third party.”

He told the court the devices only became active in SA in late May 2021.

The devices can only be used by people participating in criminal activities.
Investigating officer testifying in court

The investigating officer said if released on bail, the suspects would likely try to dispose of evidence.

“There is evidence out there. There are exhibits out there that we are tracking and some of the accused have knowledge where the evidence is. The first thing they would do is to dispose of that.”

Investigations were ongoing and at a sensitive stage, he said.

The investigating officer told the court bail conditions would not make a difference as bail money meant nothing to the suspects.

“It will not be in the interest of justice to grant the accused bail.”

It also emerged in court that Norman was allegedly part of the management of a syndicate.

“It was determined he is part of the management structures of the syndicate. He together with accused four [Rashied Baderoen], were in Gauteng and were monitoring the load that was being moved. We identified them when they were going to meet their lawyer, who was also in possession of an encrypted device,” he said.

He told the court the state had a strong case and said the evidence against Rashied was overwhelming.

The bail application continues.


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