DURBAN: Five Zimbabweans were arrested when local police seized suspected heroin powder and drug packaging equipment worth an estimated R18 million (US$1.1m) in a raid on a North Coast warehouse.
Workers busy packaging the drug threw the powder into the air to avoid arrest when police burst through the door on Thursday at the busy Acacia business park in Shaka’s Head, near Ballito.
Eight people were arrested, five of them Zimbabwean nationals, police said.
The warehouse, which was ostensibly a storage facility for a commodity broker, was in fact being used by an alleged drug kingpin for inserting the suspected heroin powder into red and white capsules.
Police crime intelligence had placed the warehouse under surveillance after receiving a tip-off.
It is alleged the workers were dropped off and picked up during normal working hours by an unknown man.
They would lock themselves in and continue operations from a tiny room concealed in the corner of the warehouse.
The staff were never seen loitering around the premises, said other business owners and employees at the business park. Other businesses used their parking bays because they were always empty.
Police used a crowbar on Thursday afternoon to break a window on the main door to start the raid.
A second wooden door inside, also locked, had to be kicked in.
There were apparently eight people in dust masks and casual clothing, packaging the drugs. Some of them threw the powder into the air while police made the arrests.
A CCTV camera, used to keep watch on the warehouse entrance to identify people wishing to come in, was seized.
Police hope the bust can put a dent in the heroin drug market. They say the kingpin, from a Durban south suburb, had been keeping his hands clean to evade arrest.
Hawks spokesman, Lieutenant Robert Netshiunda, said the heroin powder was estimated to be worth R17m and the drug packaging equipment more than R1 million.
“We caught them in the act. Eight men were arrested. Five of them Zimbabwe nationals. We commend all police units involved including the Chatsworth Crime Intelligence unit. They will appear in the KwaDukuza Magistrate’s Court,” he said.
Police said a white Chev truck found inside the warehouse was registered to a man from Chatsworth.
In the past two years, police have tackled a web of drug houses where drugs were made, packaged and distributed on the North and South coasts and in central Durban.