A POLICEMAN has been taken into custody and is currently being questioned in connection with last week’s multimillion-rand heist at OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng.
Acting police commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane last night announced that four people have been taken into custody –with two of them appearing in the Kempton Park Magistrates Court yesterday morning.
“Within a week of investigations and interviewing people of interest pertaining to the case, we can confirm that four people have been taken in for questioning. Two appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrates Court Today in connection with the heist,” Phahlane told reporters in Pretoria.
“Two people are currently being questioned. It is regrettable that one of our own members is among the two. This confirms our version of not ruling out the possibility of collusion or inside job.”
He, however, refused to divulge information on the officer. Phahlane called for space to allow the investigation to continue before giving any information.
“The policeman is still being questioned, if you were to allow me not to reveal details about this officer until the questioning is done. I can’t reveal from which station he is from,” said Phahlane.
However, he indicated that the two who appeared in court were “African males”.
Robbers made off with millions of rands in foreign currency during the robbery at OR Tambo, a national key point and Africa’s busiest airport.
The money was en-route to London when the gang pounced. The group is said to have used North Gate 1 which serves as an entrance for protocol convoys transporting VIPs.
They were said to have been well organised and possessed security paraphernalia’s that allowed them access to restricted areas.
Within 30 minutes the robbers had left the airport with bags full of money and no single gunshot fired.
Phahlane said serious security breaches made it possible for the heist to be committed. It was not the first armed robbery to be committed at the airport.
In 2006 the national key point was hit and suspects made off with R100 million. The group was armed with AK47 rifles.
With the recent robbery, the gang allegedly cloned a police car which they used during the heist. There was also an Airports Company of South Africa branded car.
Phahlane confirmed that the vehicle did not belong to SAPS. Some of the vehicles used were recovered in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, a few days later.
“In terms of the clone, we said it’s a bogus police vehicle. It means the markings that were on the vehicle are not those of an original police vehicle. A person would have obtained the markings and will place them on a vehicle but it’s not identical to our vehicles in terms of the registration number,” he said.
Phahlane also addressed rumours that police and security at the airport were made aware of the planned heist.
He said the police’s failure to act on the information could be attributed to security breaches.
“Based on what happened, the airport was characterised by security breaches. If there was such information, ordinarily we would have acted but for now, it remains a rumour and an integral part of our investigation in determining where the security breaches emanated from,” said Phahlane.
He added that they would decisively deal with their members if they are implicated in the robbery.
Phahlane said they could not rule out the possibility of more officers being arrested as the investigations unfold.
“We have resolved as law enforcement agencies to work hard in ensuring that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to book. As South African Police Service we would like to reiterate our stance that if we found that any of our members had played a role, we will take decisive action,” he stressed.
“Our investigations continue and further court appearances and arrests are likely to be made. The South African police services would like to assure our people that we are committed to securing our ports of entry and preventing serious crimes of this nature.”
None of the stolen money has so far been recovered.
Phahlane also refused to say how much was actually stolen.
It is rumoured that it ranges between R24 million and R200 million.
“The how much is still subject of our investigation, we can’t give any figures out,” he said.