By Ntando Thukwana (Sunday Times)

Commercial crimes are on the rise, and organised business is calling for the private sector to be more accountable for corruption and fraud, and to work with the government and the police to ramp up the fight against crime.

Latest statistics from the South African Police Service show a total of 83,823 commercial crime cases were reported in the year to March this year – a 14% increase from a year earlier.

Commercial crimes include corruption, fraud, forgery, embezzlement and money laundering, as well as robberies and cash-in-transit heists.

Gauteng accounted for most of the incidents, with a 14.3% jump in reported cases. The province’s most dangerous commercial crime site was Midrand, with a rise of 22%.

Other areas that reported a double-digit increase in commercial crimes were KwaZulu-Natal (21%) and the Western Cape (11%).

According to the SAPS report, the majority of business robberies take place between 16:00 and 18:00 as well as from midnight to 04:00. The report adds that such business robberies are more prevalent in rural villages and townships.

Cash-in-transit heists, which declined 23% overall, were more prevalent in Gauteng, where 62 took place. They were more likely to take place on Mondays between 08:00 and noon.

Some 65,964 fraud cases were reported, while other fraud-related offences totalled 8,065.

Manie van Schalkwyk, executive director of Southern African Fraud Prevention Services, said identity-theft cases were doubling each year. Fraudsters who stole other people’s identities usually did so to open new bank accounts and perform account takeovers, he said.

“Some of the loopholes are that consumers provide their information willingly, not because they are stupid but because the fraudsters will entice them.”

False documentation in employment fraud, when fraudsters generate false payslips from companies that do not exist, was also on the rise, he said.

“People do that to get loans because obviously you provide payslips to prove income. That increased in the first six months of this year by 55% compared to last year.”

Lobby group Business Against Crime SA said it was in the process of revising its strategy to focus on programmes and initiatives aimed at the reduction of commercial crimes.

“It is clear from all the scandals arising out of the commissions and elsewhere in the past year that business needs to do a lot of work to get its own house in order to prevent the rampant corruption and fraud that we have, and continue to hear about, from occurring in future,” it said.