OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Twitter
JOHANNESBURG – The consignments targeted by the criminals at the OR Tambo International Airport was due to be flown on an South African Airways aircraft, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said on Wednesday.
“The consignment was due to be loaded onto the aircraft and the incident happened before the aircraft arrived at the parking bay, the criminals were able to help themselves to the contents of that particular container which we refer to as high value items,” he said in an statement.
“We are not able to disclose the nature of what the container contained because the matter has become an area for criminal investigation by the law enforcement agencies.”
Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) confirmed that an armed robbery occurred at the airport and reports have stated that a large amount of money was stolen from the awaiting flight.
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The armed gang went for specific boxes at the cargo where high value and high risk cash is stored, it is clear that they knew what they were searching for as they went for certain number of boxes that the robbers were assigned to look for and grab.
It was clear that this was a well-planned and executed operation where the undisclosed number of robbers knew how to get into the airport, how to get out and which exits to use.
An estimated sum of R24-million that was in numerous foreign currencies was taken. The suspects fled in the ‘police’ vehicle and within minutes they had disappeared.
In a statement the ACSA said no shots were fired and no injuries were reported.
2001– R6,5 million was stolen from a Swissair cargo plane and almost R10 million from KIM cargo plane.
2006– R100 million was stolen in a heist, the gang colluded with three airport employees, in robbing an international flight carrying foreign currency destined for FNB and Standard Bank. The airport workers turned state witnesses in return for lenient sentences.
2014– Robbers rammed a Brinks Global Services bakkie as it left the airport’s cargo section. They got away with an undisclosed amount of money which included dollars‚ euros and pounds. The money had just been flown into the country when the vehicle was attacked, all the cash was taken.
2014– 18 members of a gang that shadowed travellers leaving OR Tambo were arrested. The breakthrough was attributed to the deployment of highly experienced retired detectives.
2016– Armed robbers posing as police entered the AFS Cargo warehouse at the airport, making off with a ton of cellphones and laptop computers.
2016– The Swissport Cargo was hit three times, the Menzies Cargo twice and a number of smaller freight handlers have been targeted since May 2016.
2017– Several travellers have been shadowed by robbers when leaving OR Tambo.
“South African Police Service (SAPS) and Airports Company South Africa is working closely with other security agencies to apprehend the suspects.
“The investigation is at an early stage. Updates will be provided when more information is available,” the company said.
Airport employees who did not want to be identified told ANN7 that they now feel unsafe as the security at the airport is not tight and strict.
Hawks Spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “We are having a high level of investigation that is lead by all the law enforcement agencies of this country, we cannot at this stage give details of what transpired.
“We do not want to speculate on the incident that happened, I think there is a lot of information lying around on the money that was taken.”
Mulaudzi added that they want to be given space while they to do their work.
“For us to make any statements now will be wrong in terms of our investigations,” he said.
Acting National Police Commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane’s spokesperson Athlenda Mathe said they are working very closely with the Hawks and ACSA in order to ensure that police are on the ground.
“We are not in a position to speak further on the matter until we have more facts but can confirm that we are working alongside the Airport Company of South Africa.”
It seems to be business as usual at the airport, with commuters and travellers streaming into the departure terminals.
Speaking on behalf of ACSA Trevor Jones said the airport is functioning normally.
Mandisa Magwaza/The New Age