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Article compiled  by: White Nation  correspondent Johannesburg – March 08 2017







SUSPECTED bogus police stole an estimated US$15-million in cash in a daring late night robbery at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. The heist occurred when “police” stopped GuardForce personnel as they were transporting the money to an awaiting flight bound for London on Tuesday night.

Airports Company South Africa’s O.R. Tambo International Airport said in a short statement the robbery occurred at approximately 7.45pm. “No shots were fired and no injuries have been reported. The robbers fled‚” it said in a statement. “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 airport authority said “It is not known at this stage what‚ if anything‚ was taken during the incident” but independent sources told TimesLIVE that an estimated US$15-million in cash was stolen.

GuardForce is responsible for securing high risk cargo‚ such as money‚ precious metals and diamonds‚ at a cargo storage facility at the airport. Separate and independent sources told TimesLIVE from the scene that the attack occurred as the GuardForce employees approached the aircraft. “A van with ‘police’ and flashing lights ordered the vehicle to stop as it neared the aircraft. “They went for specific boxes. It’s clear that they knew what they were searching for.” Another source‚ within the Hawks‚ which is investigating the attack‚ described the heist as a “slick” operation. “They went for a certain number of boxes. The robbers were assigned to look for and grab certain containers. “They clearly had good info. They knew how to get into the airport and how to get out‚ which exits to use … Within minutes they were gone … clear of the airport. “The money was in numerous foreign currencies. It was being stored at the cargo section of the airport where high value and high risk cargo such as cash is stored.”

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed the robbery. “A high level investigation has been launched but it is sensitive at this stage‚ so we cannot release any further details‚” he said. In 2006‚ about R100 million was stolen in an Oceans Eleven style heist at OR Tambo Airport. The gang colluded with three airport employees in robbing an international flight carrying foreign currency destined for FNB and Standard Bank. And in October 2014‚ robbers‚ armed with semi-automatic rifles‚ rammed a Brinks Global Services bakkie as it left OR Tambo International Airport’s cargo section in Johannesburg. It is believed the money‚ said to include dollars‚ euros and pounds‚ had just been flown into the country when the vehicle was attacked. All the cash was taken. Gunmen rammed the unmarked vehicle‚ damaging it extensively as it left the airport’s cargo section. As several gunmen tried to force the driver and his two crew from the bakkie‚ others removed the canopy‚ breaking open the safe before fleeing with the cash. The guards‚ who were injured in the collision‚ were taken to hospital. Also in 2014‚ 18 members of a gang that shadowed travelers leaving OR Tambo were arrested. The breakthrough was attributed to the deployment of highly experienced retired detectives‚ an innovation that then national police commissioner Riah Phiyega said was crucial in dealing with high-profile crimes.

In an aftermath new shocking revelations came to light.  Allegations of police corruption and security bungles cloak what is arguably South Africa’s most audacious cash heist — the theft of nearly R200 million in foreign currency from Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. As police established a task force on Wednesday to hunt down the gang of up to 13 thugs‚ details of the heist began to emerge from numerous interviews conducted by The Times with airport security dealing with currency transfers. At about 7.45pm on Tuesday night‚ four security guards were on duty at the airport’s Gate 1 — known as “Rampside” — when a group of men in a police LDV‚ wearing police uniforms‚ arrived at their guard post. Accompanying them were men driving a white Mercedes Benz and a Ford Focus ST. At least one of the vehicles is believed to have had Airports Company South Africa markings on it. The thieves had ACSA identity cards which gave them access to the airport’s highly secure cargo area. It was business as usual — until the gates opened and the trap was sprung.

The gang‚ posing as police and Acsa staff‚ whipped out weapons‚ holding up the guards who were stripped of their phones‚ security radios and access cards‚ which were used to open the gates. Several of the thieves stayed behind to man the gate. Their mission: to stop anyone from entering. Anyone arriving at the gates was told there was a security situation in the area and no one was to enter or leave. Alwyn Rautenbach‚ chairman of the air cargo operators committee‚ on Wednesday asked questions about how the gang even got this far. “Each vehicle that enters that gate must stop. There are grippers that will rip the tires if the vehicle doesn’t stop. The driver and passengers have to get out of the vehicle. “You must have an ACSA permit. They scan your fingerprints and you must swipe your ACSA access card and then you are searched.” The Times entered the cargo areas in the same vicinity on Wednesday without being screened.

Meanwhile‚ as about four thieves manned the gate‚ the others drove towards their target – a tractor from Guardforce International Transportation‚ hauling a dolly. On the dolly was a container filled with hundreds of millions of rands in foreign currency collected from South Africa’s banks and foreign exchange services. The cargo’s destination was London. A source involved in foreign currency security said the thieves knew what they were doing. “To pull off such a heist one needs to know flight numbers‚ arrival and take-off times‚ when the cargo left Guardforce’s vault and which dolly it’s on. “The only way to get this information is from an airline or security company insider.” A regular police escort had failed to arrive to accompany them to the plane‚ The Times was told‚ but a Guardforce employee and G4S Security escort had no choice but to continue with their delivery.

The guards trundled across the tarmac towards South African Airlines cargo Flight 294‚ about a kilometer away from the security vault facility‚ used to store high risk cargo; After all‚ who would breach the area since the last security upgrade following 2006’s R100-million heist? Nothing had been out of place when the cash — owned by Brink’s Global Services — was delivered to the vault earlier. When they reached the designated load spot‚ the guards stopped and waited. The approaching police LDV and unmarked vehicles‚ all of whom had lights flashing‚ did not raise their suspicions – until gunmen with assault rifles leaped from the vehicles. As some held up the driver of the tractor and the guard vehicle‚ others broke open the container on the dolly. The thieves grabbed 27 bags filled with foreign cash before they made their getaway‚ without a shot fired in the robbery – which took less than 30 minutes.

The G4S Security guard raised the alarm‚ but when help arrived‚ the gunmen were long gone. The only clues so far are CCTV footage and two vehicles – one a fake police vehicle – which were recovered in Mamelodi East‚- a black township near Pretoria‚ on Wednesday. Tiaan Taljaard‚ G4S operations manager‚ confirmed the alarm had been raised by their guards‚ but declined to elaborate. Brink’s general manager Rhys Cullinan said he was not at liberty to say who the cash customers were. However‚ a source told The Times that the stolen money was from South African banks and foreign exchange services. “The money was in low denominations in US dollars‚ pounds and euros.” South Africa’s Acting National Police Commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane said officers were hard at work on the investigation. He was speaking at an impromptu press briefing in Richmond‚ KwaZulu-Natal. “Two vehicles have been recovered in Gauteng and on examination the allegation that they are official police vehicles is unsupported. They are bogus police cars‚” he said. Hawks national head Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza has established a task team to investigate and arrest the suspects involved in the robbery. “This is a serious matter and as the Hawks we will put out all stops to uncover the truth behind this weird robbery. We do not want to speculate at the moment but we are confident that people responsible for the robbery will be brought to book. The airport is a National Key Point and its safety is of paramount importance‚” he said in a statement.





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