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How gang pulled off airport heist

Picture Credit: www.aurecongroup.com
Picture Credit: www.aurecongroup.com

A group of brazen robbers who pulled off a daring heist at the OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday night spent close to half an hour in a restricted area before making a dash with a reported $15-million (R195-million).

It emerged yesterday that at least a group of about 10 armed robbers had been involved in the crime.

Several police sources confirmed to Sowetan that a Toyota double cab bakkie with blue lights was among the vehicles used in the crime. Other vehicles included a Mercedes Benz and a Ford Focus ST.

In a statement last night, Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) said two vehicles involved in the robbery have been recovered in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria.

"It was established that the bakkie had been made to look like an official police vehicle," the statement read.

"At 19h23, a vehicle [a bakkie] with what appeared to be police markings pulled up at a restricted access gate, North Gate 1. It was closely followed by a white Ford Focus. Both vehicles had their sirens and blue lights activated.

"The vehicles were occupied by several armed men, some of whom were in South African Police Service [SAPS] uniforms.

"When requested to validate their credentials, the men produced firearms, rounded up security staff in the security checkpoint and ordered them to lie on the floor."

The robbers, according to Acsa, then proceeded to gain access to the airside of the airport where they removed an undisclosed amount of money from a sealed container. No shots were fired and no injuries were reported.

"The bakkie and the Ford Focus then exited through the same point of entry at 19h45," it said.

The company has replaced security guards in the affected operations as a precautionary measure while investigations continue.

Acsa is working closely with law enforcement agencies "to support both the investigation of this robbery and to establish what further measures will be taken".

An employee at the airport who wished to remain anonymous told Sowetan that the incident had left many baffled.

A traffic controller who asked not to be named claimed that some of the police officers are working with criminals to commit robberies at the airport.

Hawks boss Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza has since established a task team to investigate and arrest the suspects.

The task team includes members of the Crime Intelligence Unit, the Hawks and the SAPS.

Ntlemeza said a group of armed robbers, some wearing police uniforms and driving in a marked SAPS Toyota bakkie and a white Mercedes Benz, held the security personnel at gunpoint and proceeded to the restricted cargo area and cut open the consignment which was containing the money.

"The suspects fled the crime scene with all 27 parcels full of foreign currency money to an unknown direction," Ntlemeza said.

"This is a serious matter, and as the Hawks we will pull out all stops to uncover the truth behind this weird robbery."

ramothwalap@sowetan.co.za

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