The illegal seizure of 25 containers with scrap metal eight years ago has resulted in the police minister being ordered to pay R1.35 million in damages to a Boksburg company.
Judge Wendy Hughes granted an order in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ordering the minister not only to pay the amount to Maverick 29 Business Management, but also to immediately return the scrap copper that was seized from the company at the Durban container depot in August and November 2008.
If the police failed to release the copper, the sheriff of the court was authorised to attach, remove and hand over the copper to Maverick.
Maverick said in court papers Durban harbour police had wrongfully seized 25 of its containers containing scrap copper, brass and aluminium without verifying that Maverick had acquired the contents of the containers lawfully and that transactions for the sale of the contents were legitimate.
The price of copper was subject to fluctuation in accordance with price changes on the London Metal Exchange (LME) and police were warned that the LME prices for the scrap metals were, at that stage, in the process of rapidly decreasing and it was, therefore, important to allow the containers to be exported as soon as possible.
The company alleged that because of the police’s failure to finalise their investigations expeditiously, the export of the goods was delayed, the price of copper and other metals decreased and eight purchase contracts were cancelled resulting in a loss in profits.
The company also had to incur additional legal and travelling expenses and additional weigh bridge and storage costs because of the delay.
In addition, the company sued the minister for the loss it suffered after a large amount of scrap metal was stolen from the containers because the police allegedly failed to properly guard the contents of the containers, despite knowing that scrap metal had a significant value on the black market.
The company said it was forced to employ private detectives to investigate the theft, to see to it that theft charges were opened and to guard the remaining contents.