Extent of airport crime exposed

Drugs are found in passengers' luggage, clothing, body wraps (pictured here) or swallowed. Photo: SAPS
Drugs are found in passengers' luggage, clothing, body wraps (pictured here) or swallowed. Photo: SAPS

Drug couriers with a special taste for cocaine powder‚ fake documents‚ smuggling and rental car theft are amongst the crimes being fought by joint security forces at the O R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The South African Police Service says it requires a multi-skilled team to repel the syndicates and criminal suspects from transiting through the airport‚ explaining in a statement: “The types of crimes and challenges they are faced with requires certain specialities from the various role-players”.

“They encounter suspects‚ syndicates and crime from all over the world‚” also requiring the team to liaise closely with Interpol and regional police chiefs.

The biggest challenge that ORTIA police encounter is the problem of drugs attempted to be brought in or taken out of the country. Illegal immigrants and trafficking of protected species such as rhino horn and perlemoen are also a challenge.

The drugs seized at ORTIA include Cocaine‚ Crystal Meth‚ Ephedrine‚ Heroine‚ Khat‚ Dagga‚ and Steroids – the most common being cocaine in powder format‚ police say.

“These drugs are found in luggage‚ clothing‚ body wraps or swallowed and the criminals are caught through intelligence driven work or random searches.”

In most cases they originate from South American countries‚ other African countries and Asia to be manufactured and sold in South Africa. However‚ there are cases where suspects are arrested while only stopping over en route other countries to manufacture and sell the drugs. The suspects include South Africans as well as various other nationalities.

In the last 18 months‚ 142 people have been convicted and sentenced to a total of 1441 years combined. From these arrests the following total amount of drugs were seized:

• 455 kilograms of Cocaine estimated to be worth R114 301 184

• 124 kilograms of Crystal Meth estimated to be worth R37 453 800

• 9 grams of Heroine estimated to be worth R1 806 199

• 7 kilograms of Khat estimated to be worth R468 600

• 46 kilograms of Ephedrine estimated to be worth R7 489 800

• 30 litres of Ephedrine estimated to be worth R9 000 000.

Immigration offences include cases where foreign nationals attempt to enter the country using fraudulent documents including passports and visas. The SAPS said a total of 163 foreigners have been convicted for this and sentenced in the last 18 months.

“Moreover‚ detectives continue to work on cases of common crime affecting travellers‚ patrons‚ employees and business at ORTIA. These include but not limited to theft‚ fraud‚ assault‚ shoplifting‚ trespassing‚ possession of stolen property‚ crimen injuria‚ and business robbery.”

The SAPS also cautioned car thieves‚ saying: “There has been a slight increase in rental car thefts where cars are hired out using false identification or reported stolen when they have not been stolen – this is being tackled by the ORTIA Task Team”.


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