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Plight of foreign shop owners in spotlight

Shop owners have become too fearful to drive home alone after being attacked and victimised.

Dragon City Mall in Johannesburg where numerous foreign shop owners claim police steal from them and beat them simply because they're foreigners. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Serious concerns have been raised about the apparent targeting of foreign business owners by fake and corrupt police members in downtown Johannesburg.

Victims of syndicates operating at Chinese bargain malls have spoken out about how they were attacked and robbed.

Eyewitness News has learnt of dozens of shop owners in Fordsburg who have become too fearful to drive home alone after repeated attacks and robberies.

A Chinese couple were shot and killed while driving home from work at the weekend and though the case is still under investigation, their associates believe they were victims of another syndicate.

Riyan Li and his wife Wiehong were shot multiple times at the intersection of Main Reef Road and Church Street in Fordsburg on Sunday evening.

Speaking to Eyewitness News at the Dragon City shopping complex in Fordsburg, shop owners were close to tears as they described traumatic stop and searches, allegedly conducted by the police.

An Egyptian shop owner said the practice has become a norm and he now has to find creative ways of getting home.

The police's Neville Malila says authorities have already cracked down on two syndicates but remain concerned that the crimes are still happening.

Earlier this month, two syndicates working with members of the South African Police Service and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) were shut down by the National Investigation Unit for targeting foreign-owned businesses.

Eighteen people, including 11 officials from Sars, four police officers and two officers from the Gauteng traffic police were arrested in connection with robberies in the Johannesburg CBD, Langlaagte and Randburg in which foreign business owners had been targeted.

Management at the mall has since hired private security to escort some of the businessmen home but other say they are making plans to close down their shops and leave the country.