Cross-border vehicle hijacker and smuggler sentenced to 53 years in prison

SAPS recovers 150 vehicles and arrests 276 suspects linked to transnational crime in joint Mozambique operations

Sipho “Smirnoff” Mhlanga was sentenced to 53 years in prison.
Sipho “Smirnoff” Mhlanga was sentenced to 53 years in prison.
Image: Supplied/SAPS

Sipho “Smirnoff' Mhlanga, 37, a vehicle hijacker and smuggler, was this week sentenced to 53 years in prison by the Mtubatuba magistrate's court in KwaZulu-Natal. 

Police said a national task team deployed to the northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal to clamp down on cross-border criminality led to the successful conviction of the wanted cross-border vehicle hijacker and smuggler.

Mhlanga was arrested in August 2023 and linked to a syndicate smuggling hijacked and stolen vehicles from South Africa to Mozambique through various borders in KwaZulu-Natal. He had been in custody since his arrest and was found guilty on June 19 for 10 charges including murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.   

In June 2023, Mhlanga’s accomplice Vusi Amos Malwane was sentenced to 55 years' imprisonment by the Ingwavuma magistrate's court.

“To date, the task team which was deployed in February 2023 to Emanguzi has arrested 276 suspects with 107 still in police custody. 150 vehicles that were either stolen or hijacked have been recovered, with the majority of those recovered being 4 x 4 vehicles.

“During this period, 93 SUVs and or 4x4 vehicles and 57 sedans were recovered. 135 of these vehicles have been handed over to their lawful owners,” said police spokesperson Brig Athlenda Mathe.

She said more than 70 illegal and unlicensed firearms were also confiscated which included 14 rifles. She added there is a joint action plan in place between the Mozambique police and the SAPS aimed at addressing transnational crime in both countries.

“The joint action plan aims to ensure a dedicated team from both countries meet regularly to conduct joint cross-border operations with the aim of preventing and combating cross-border vehicle smuggling, kidnappings and stock theft,” she said.


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