National 14.3.2017 09:07 pm

Four arrested in connection with OR Tambo heist

At OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Valentina Nicol

At OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Valentina Nicol

Khomotso Phahlane revealed that a police officer was among those taken in for questioning.

Four people, including a police officer, have been arrested in connection with the brazen cash heist at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, acting national police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Johannes Phahlane said on Tuesday evening.

Of the four suspects, Phahlane said two had earlier appeared in court on Tuesday.

“Within a week of investigations and interviewing of people of interest in this case, we can confirm that four people have been taken in for questioning. Two have appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrates’ court today [Tuesday] in connection with the heist,” Phahlane told reporters at a briefing in Pretoria.

“Two people are currently being questioned. It is regrettable that one of our own members is among the two [who haven’t appeared in court]. This confirms our version of not ruling out the possibility of collusion or an inside job.”

Phahlane said police officers are not escaping scrutiny as the net closes in on the armed robbers who got away with an undisclosed amount of cash — reported to be around R24 million — from the national key point.

“As the South African Police Service we would like to reiterate our stance that if we find that any of our members had a role to play, we will take decisive action. Our investigations continue and further court appearances and arrests are likely to be made,” he said.

“The SA Police Service would like to reassure all South Africans that we are committed to security our ports of entry and preventing and combating serious crimes of this nature.”

Asked about the detained police officer’s details including his/her station, Phahlane declined to give further details.

“Allow me at this stage to not disclose the details of this person until a point where the questioning is concluded. I can’t tell you about the station and so on,” said Phahlane.

The suspects face charges of armed robbery.

“There is no charge which is a heist. That is what is being pursued in this instance,” said Phahlane.

He congratulated the SAPS members for the arrests, which he said had been drives by crime intelligence, not tip-offs from the public.

“We are not solely dependent on tip-offs. Maybe you [media] should also start by congratulating crime intelligence [unit] for having worked hard in gathering intelligence which led us to be successful in apprehending some of those that were involved. It was not rip-offs based but based on intelligence,” said Phahlane.

Pressed for further details regarding the suspects, the police chief also revealed that the two who appeared in court are “African males”.

“I am not going to profile their finer details at this stage,” he said.

On Tuesday last week, a gang of robbers made off with the undisclosed amount of cash from Africa’s biggest and busiest airport. Some of the gang members were allegedly wearing police uniforms. No shots were fired.

The money has not been recovered.

The exact amount of money stolen, the currency and its intended destination is also part of the ongoing intensive police investigation.

Numerous police officers man the airport, conducting duties including escorting valuable cargo between the vault and aircraft and vice versa. They also conduct general crime prevention activities in the airport.

Phahlane also confirmed that four suspects have been arrested after 14 bodies believed to be of illegal miners were found in Benoni in Gauteng last week.

“The victims and the suspects are all Lesotho nationals.

“One of the suspects was arrested in South Africa and the three others were nabbed  in Lesotho.

“We are in discussions with our Interpol colleagues to facilitate the extradition of those in Lesotho,” he said.

The guns found in the possession of the suspects in Lesotho were confiscated.  Three of the suspects have already been found guilty in a Lesotho court on charges of possession of unlicensed firearms.

Those firearms would be brought back to South Africa for ballistics testing to determine if they were used in the murders here, he added.

OR Tambo heist could have been an inside job, says Phahlane

– African News Agency

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