Three major drug busts at OR Tambo as hundreds of fans gather to welcome home Miss Universe

Police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo with some of the drugs sized at OR Tambo international airport.
Police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo with some of the drugs sized at OR Tambo international airport.
Image: Shain Germaner

As hundreds of adoring fans gathered in the terminals to greet newly crowned Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi, police at OR Tambo International Airport were cracking down on three separate drug smuggling attempts.

Early on Saturday morning, a joint operation between the SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit, the K9 Unit, Sars, and Airports Company SA apprehended three business class passengers travelling from across the world with almost 30 kilograms of drugs between them with an estimated street value of R26m.

According to national police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo, the first two smugglers, a man and a woman travelling separately, were both arriving at the airport from South America. An inspection of the woman’s check-in luggage found about a dozen tightly-wrapped packets stuffed to the brim with what police suspect is 21kg of cocaine.

The woman, upon her apprehension, is understood to have started vomiting profusely, and was rushed to hospital where she will remain until she has recovered enough to be placed in police custody.

The man, meanwhile, was discovered to have taped packets of white powder across his body, holding about three kilos as well.

Naidoo said it was on his way to the airport on Saturday morning that a third call came in: investigators at OR Tambo had discovered a man about to board a flight to Hong Kong, also strapped with several kilos of suspected cocaine.

The man, understood to have been from Brakpan, was wearing a well-tailored suit and was also travelling business class.

Naidoo explained that drug smugglers often think that travelling in business class or above will keep them from suspicion, but said that this was totally untrue.

He gave credit for the busts to the intelligence operations that have gathered information both locally as well as from the countries of origin where the drugs arrive from.

When asked if perhaps the smugglers thought they would be more difficult to detect under the large commotion surrounding Tunzi’s return to SA, he said it was unlikely, as drug traffickers are prone to travel at all hours of the day and night, and that it was likely just a coincidence that the arrests and Tunzi’s procession coincided.

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