OR Tambo heist: The story that could have kept suspects out of trouble
Bragging and going on a spending spree is the last thing any self-respecting heist kingpin should do.
The alleged heist kingpin who bought himself a R5 million Lamborghini after the OR Tambo International Airport robbery posted pictures of his new toy on social media.
If he is guilty‚ he could have evaded the law by following the news. If he did‚ he would have seen this story on Times Media at the beginning of March: Remember the R115m airport heist in Johannesburg 16 years ago? This is how the robbers were caught.
Hindsight is 20/20‚ as the saying goes. So here is the story‚ in case you missed it:
Two days after Christmas in 2001‚ a heavily armed group of men staged a brazen daylight heist at the airport in Johannesburg and escaped with R115 million worth of foreign currency‚ diamonds and jewellery.
The cash was aboard an aircraft‚ destined for delivery to banks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola‚ at what was then known as Johannesburg International Airport.
The robbers escaped with their loot in a truck‚ fled to Zimbabwe and embarked on an extravagant spending spree that raised so many eyebrows – it eventually led to their arrest.
“The robbers forced three security guards to load the cash‚ diamonds and jewellery — which had arrived on a flight from Amsterdam — onto the truck. They shot an airport security guard in one of his legs during their getaway‚” wrote Sunday Times reporter Mzilikazi Wa Afrika at the time.
The gang bought a second-hand BMW for R200 000 cash in Johannesburg.
In Zimbabwe‚ they paid a sangoma R800 000 for muti to keep the police away‚ exchanged some of the stolen dollars for R204 000 in Zimbabwean currency‚ booked themselves seven rooms in the three-star Rainbow Hotel in Bulawayo and paid cash for a Mitsubishi Pajero worth more than R200 000 at the time.
The orgy of spending saw them pay cash for two Mazda bakkies and a Ssangyong Musso. They also spent lavishly on furniture for unidentified women who accompanied them. They bought several properties in Bulawayo as well as nearby Gokwe and Begweru.
Members of the public alerted police about a group of men that were living like royalty‚ spending money on fast cars‚ prostitutes and staying at luxury hotels in Zimbabwe.
A Zimbabwean police spokesman‚ Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena‚ told the Sunday Times‚ “The suspects were living like kings out of their loot and purchasing anything that money can buy”.
But without concrete proof that it was stolen money the police could not act.
“The puzzle was finally solved when the South African police approached us and explained how a gang made off with millions of rands at Johannesburg International Airport” explained Wayne Bvudzijena.
Four men were arrested when police raided the hotel and a second property owned by the gang. The men were handed over to the South African Police.
One of the men was on the most wanted list in South Africa for escaping from prison. He was serving a 15-year sentence for armed robbery at the time.
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.