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Drugs and cash estimated at more than R20 million confiscated from criminals have been stolen at OR Tambo International Airport’s police offices in yet another “burglary” that has left the police baffled.
In the latest incident, on Monday night, criminals allegedly broke the wall of an office at the airport’s SAPS administrative block to access the main safe, known as Exhibit 13 within police circles. They then cleared it of drugs and cash.
The drugs are kept at the SAPS’s offices before they are taken for forensic tests.
However, sources at the airport’s police station have told The Star that the crime was an inside job. Fingers have been wagged at the SAPS top management and a warrant officer guarding the safe. The identities of the officers implicated are known to The Star.
Station commander Brigadier Modise Mohale refused to comment.
Police spokesman Dennis Adriao confirmed there had been a break-in at the SAPS’s administrative office inside the airport’s premises. He did not give further details.
It was the second time in less than five years that drugs and cash were stolen at the airport’s SAPS offices. In July 2008, cash and drugs worth an estimated R15m disappeared from the airport. The incident was also suspected to be an inside job that also alleged involvement of the same police officer responsible for guarding the safe.
During the 2008 incident, he was allegedly hijacked while on his way home and robbed of the keys to the safe.
The incident happened while the trial of 15 people who allegedly stole about R65m from a plane parked at the airport was still continuing. This week’s incident has heightened calls for the police authorities to intervene.
“The thing about breaking the wall was just a trick to cover up for their theft,” said the source. “The organised crime unit at the airport must know the exact amount that disappeared. There is nothing like an undisclosed amount of money because all the confiscated cash is recorded in the ‘face-value book’.”
Another source alleged that the break-in was not captured on the airport’s CCTV cameras. “There are (CCTV) cameras all around the airport with a bird’s-eye view of the entire airport precinct and access routes. Someone might have tampered with the CCTV cameras and Acsa (Airports Company South Africa) must know,” he said.
Acsa spokeswoman Unathi Batyashe-Fillis said: “We unfortunately cannot speculate on whether the CCTV cameras in question were working or not. This matter is being investigated by the SAPS.”