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Mozambican police have arrested nine railway workers for involvement in the theft of 20 tonnes of wheat last month, according to a report in the Beira daily paper “Diario de Mocambique”.
The nine were members of the crew of the train that was robbed, and they helped organize the theft. The police arrested six of them at Messica, in the central province of Manica, and the other three in the neighbouring province of Sofala.
The theft occurred on 25 February, when the train was carrying a cargo of wheat from the port of Beira to Zimbabwe. When the train stopped in Messica, a gang of thieves started looting the wagons. The police believe they intended to sell the wheat on the informal market.
Five members of the gang were caught red-handed as they moved the sacks of wheat from the wagons to waiting pick-up trucks. The police seized four of these vehicles.
Manica provincial police spokesperson Elsidia Filipe said it was thanks to a tip-off from the local population that the theft was interrupted and the criminals arrested. This was by no means the first such theft: Filipe said local people had seen trains stopping in the Messica area, and unloading goods on several occasions, both in broad daylight and at night.
The train was operated by Mozambique’s port and rail company CFM, and CFM worked with the police to identify the thieves. A representative of the CFM Central division, Luis Jone, told reporters that whenever anything of the sort happens the train crew and the security accompanying the train are asked to investigate.
The police at Messica had already told CFM that on 25 February police had recovered wheat looted from the train. Jaime said the CFM investigators then went to the rail station at Machipanda, on the border with Zimbabwe, “and we confirmed that grain had indeed been taken from some of the wagons”.
This flatly contradicted the version of the crew and the security escort who denied there had been any theft at all, and claimed that the wheat arrived at Machipanda in good condition.
This is not the first case of theft from trains on the Beira-Zimbabwe line in recent months. “There was an incident in the village of Revue in December, when unspecified amounts of maize and wheat were taken”, said Jone. “Another theft occurred on 2 January at Zimpinga, in Gondola district, when 210 sacks of rice, each weighing 50 kilos, were stolen. Legal proceedings in these cases have been started. Assessment of the losses has not yet been concluded”.
As for the four pick-up trucks into which the stolen wheat was being loaded when the police struck, they have now been returned to their owners – even though these men tried to bribe the head of the Messica police post, Antonio Massaite, with 60,000 meticais (about 880 US dollars). Massaite refused the bribe, and the owners of the vehicles will face charges of bribery as well as of theft.
Johoane Rupia, owner of the two of the trucks, told reporters he did not know where the wheat had come from. He said he had been contacted “by the owners of the merchandise” to carry it into Messica town, a distance of about 10 kilometres, for which he would be paid 2,000 meticais.Source: AIM