AIRPORT HEIST: THE MYSTERY BEHIND MISSING OFFICER
O.R Tambo International Airport. File photo. Image by: Gallo Images/Foto24/Brendan Croft
Among a slew of questions arising from Tuesday night’s multi-million cash heist at OR Tambo International Airport is why a SAPS escort failed to show up on time.
The Times can report‚ after numerous interviews with reliable sources‚ that a police escort meant to accompany the security company vehicle transporting the high-value cargo container did not arrive on time.
Acting National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane would not confirm the report when questioned following a press briefing on the robbery on Thursday‚ but said it was one of many facets police were investigating.
“As to whether the police were… where they were supposed to be‚ those are the kind of things we are referring to when we talk about security breaches‚” he said‚ adding that police had not ruled out the possibility it was an inside job.
“To go into detail about who was where and who was supposed to talk to who would only be revealed by a comprehensive investigation.”
Phahlane also explained that the vetting of police officers stationed at OR Tambo was done on different levels – with more stringent background checks being done if the officer was required to gain access to high security areas to conduct his or her duties.
During the briefing‚ he appealed to the media to give the authorities space to investigate the daring heist.
While refusing to answer detailed questions regarding the robbery‚ Phahlane hit out at in-depth reports by TimesLive that revealed how the robbery went down‚ saying the mention of vehicles used as police vehicles was fake news.
“People must not jump to conclusions with limited information‚” he said‚ adding that the media reports were “peddling distorted pictures to the nation”.
“We are going to increase and intensify our efforts there. In no way can we take anything for granted after what happened on Tuesday. We will deal with those gaps that are manifesting themselves in the security system but we certainly cannot provide more details on other measures‚” he said.
Responding to allegations about a supposed ‘turf war’ between the Hawks and SAPS members at the airport‚ Phahlane said he could not respond to these claims by Ipid head Robert McBride.
“There is no war between SAPS and Hawks. They are a family and they work together everywhere. I can’t respond to what was said outside this space‚” he said.
Meanwhile‚ Airports Company of South Africa CEO‚ Bongani Maseko said he could not provide a figure for the number of criminal incidents at the aiport over the past 12 months.
“Those statistics would fall under the mandate of the SAPS‚” Maseko said.
Phahlane told journalists he could assure the public of South Africa that they were safe.
“Around 20 million people move through that airport every year‚ and I cannot think of one recorded fatality there. It is safe.”
- TMG Digital/Times Live