- Stanbic ATM blasted in Ramotswa at 2am Tuesday
- 13 heists and 8 ATM bombings recorded in two years
- 17 suspects arrested, over P13m stolen in two years
Law enforcement agencies are cracking down on criminal syndicates linked to the spate of cash-in-transit robberies and blasting of ATMs around the country that suddenly emerged two or so years ago, The Botswana Gazette has established.
The latest incident happened in Ramotswa when a massive sonic boom ripped through the still night air at 2am early Tuesday morning. It was soon followed by what sounded like gunfire and the roaring of a flying helicopter over the frontier town more than half-an-hour later. A total of 17 suspects have been arrested in connection with the heists and blasting of ATMs with explosive devices while some have lost their lives in the process.
Recovered cash kept as exhibit
Although the police say they are not at liberty to share the actual tallies of money stolen over the last two years, this publication has gathered that it is in the region of P13 million and more in the last two years. Police have recovered some of the cash in some of the incidents and kept it as exhibits.
According to police spokesman, Assistant Commissioner Dipheko Motube, 13 cash-in-transit robberies and seven ATM bombings were recorded between January 2021 and August 2022. Most of these cases were recorded in Gaborone and the southern policing districts of the country.
“Mostly in shopping malls, including the outskirts of the city and a few Southern District policing divisions,” Motune said. “Seventeen suspects have been arrested and brought before the courts. (They are composed of) 13 Botswana males, two Botswana females and two South African males.”
The police spokesman attributed the success of the arrests to a “comprehensive inter-agency plan” that includes the Directorate on Intelligence and Security and the Botswana Defence Force.”
The Botswana Gazette is also informed that informants have become a key component of police operations. “We have been able to gather a lot from informants and other sources,” said a source close to the developments. “They have been very critical.”
A number of planned heists and ATM bombings have also been foiled by law enforcement agencies, thanks to informants. An example was a recent one near Riverwalk Mall in Gaborone last month in which five armed men driving a stolen Toyota Wish were arrested.
The would-be robbers were also in possession of electronic jamming devices. They had been on the radar of law enforcement for various robbery cases.
This publication is informed that security companies have also taken several measures in response to this emerging challenge. The measures include procurement of armoured vehicles and installation of security enhancements in their existing fleets by companies like G4S and Security Systems.
It is reported that security companies are now required to file a travel and security plan with the Bank of Botswana and law enforcement agencies before embarking on their cash-collection runs. G4S and Security Systems did not respond to questions sent to the company regarding this issue last month.
Banks cagey with information
Contacting banks that have been affected by the robberies and blasting of ATMs, it came to light that First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) has experienced three cash-in-transit robberies and seven ATM bombings in the last two years but three were classified as failed because the assailants did not get away with any cash.
Said the bank’s Communications & PR Manager, Boga Chilinde-Masebu: “According to the trends we have seen over the past years, these crimes are more prevalent in Gaborone and surrounding villages.”
“Some of these places are the University of Botswana, Choppies Tsolamosese, Mahalapye Kalabeng, Mochudi U-Save, Block 5 Mountain View, Moshupa Choppies, Molepolole Total, Block 6, Middle Star and Mogoditshane Turnrite Mall.”
Absa Botswana confirmed four ATM blasting incidents that all happened this year. “We have had incidents at Palapye Old Branch, Shoshong, Pitsane and an attempt on Kanye ATM,” said the bank’s Marketing and Corporate Manager, Spencer Moreri.
Both banks would not disclose how much money was stolen in these incidents while Stanbic Bank Botswana, whose ATM was targeted in Ramotswa at 2am on Tuesday this week, said it was not in a position to comment.
At the time going to press last night, police were yet to say exactly what happened in the Ramotswa incident.