retoria – The South African Police Services (SAPS) says the cars used to commit the armed robbery at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday night were bogus police cars.
The two cars were found abandoned in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, on Wednesday.
“The vehicle found abandoned in Mamelodi proved to be one with fake police markings. When the perpetrators are arrested, we would not be surprised to learn that some of them are bogus police officers,” Acting National Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane told the media on Thursday.
According to Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa), at 19h23 on Tuesday, a vehicle (a bakkie) with markings made to look like an official police vehicle pulled up at a restricted access gate, North Gate 1 at the airport. It was closely followed by a white Ford Focus. Both vehicles had their sirens and blue lights activated and were occupied by several armed men, some of whom were in police 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 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 two cars then exited through the same point of entry at 19h45.
General Phahlane says an intensive and multi-disciplinary investigation process is underway and an investigative task team comprising Crime Intelligence, the Hawks and SAPS detectives is working around the clock on the case.
The process will see the interviewing of all role players and personnel charged with duties in and around the airport that day. He did not rule out the possibility that the heist was an inside job.
“We will investigate and arrest objectively and should we find evidence of any type of police of other collusion we will take decisive action. If bona fide uniforms or equipment were used by the suspects, the source of those uniforms or equipment will also be part of the investigations,” assured General Phahlane.
The police, according to General Phahlane, will also identify security shortcomings and implement measures to prevent an incident of this nature from happening again.
“Although this incident is regrettable, and unfortunate, the SAPS and all role players are compelled to continuously review the security measures aimed at curbing the recurrence of this nature.”
Security measures intensified
Acsa has announced that security measures around the airport have been further heightened.
“Management of Airports Company South Africa is deeply concerned by this robbery and the manner in which it took place. We are working closely with law enforcement agencies to support both the investigation of this robbery and to establish what further measures will be taken,” Acsa said in a statement.
General Phahlane has assured that the safety of passengers, staff, stakeholders and visitors to the airport was not compromised during the robbery and that the safety and security remains their top operational priority.
“South African Police Service members deployed at OR Tambo International Airport conduct their constitutionally mandated duties which include, but are not restricted to patrolling the airside and escorting valuable cargo between the vault and aircraft and vice versa, on the landside, the SAPS members perform general crime prevention duties, intelligence-driven operations are conducted in the cargo area; visible policing and crime prevention duties are conducted in the terminals; and access control is normally conducted at the gates leading to restricted areas.”
Operations at OR Tambo International Airport were not affected and the airport is functioning normally.