[Nikon Makernote]Sharpening=AUTO

Durban - Some foreigners who have been bust at King Shaka International Airport for having expired visas or attempting to smuggle large amounts of foreign currency and undeclared goods out of the country have been trying to buy their way out of trouble.

They have been offering substantial, on-the-spot cash bribes to police officers.

But members of an undercover anti-smuggling task team at the airport have not been tempted by the sight of fresh US dollar bills.

In the past three weeks they have arrested nine foreigners who have attempted to bribe officers with cash in exchange for their freedom.

The total value of the bribes is estimated at almost R100 000.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane warned that trying to bribe police in order to escape a crime would not be tolerated.

He confirmed the nine cases and said in one instance police had been offered up to $6 000 (R49 000) in bribe money.

He said friends and acquaintances who tried getting suspects off the hook by bribing police had also been arrested.

He commended police for their good work and not being tempted by the cash bribes.

A source at the airport said a Pakistani man had recently been arrested after he allegedly failed to declare more than $80 000.

The man was in transit waiting to take an Emirates flight to Dubai when he was nabbed.

The cash was in eight plastic packets containing $10 000 each and was hidden in the man’s underwear and shoes, the source alleged.

“Our members had been watching him and he appeared very nervous and showed tell-tale signs of being up to no good. He was searched and the money was found.”

The source said when the man was bust he placed $6 000 in the arresting officer’s hand.

“He told the policeman to take the money and let him go. He was immediately arrested.”

The suspect has been charged with bribing a police officer and failing to declare the foreign currency. He is out on bail and expected to appear in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on September 25.

The source said customs officials were also investigating how he had acquired the cash.

On Tuesday, swift justice prevailed for two Ugandans who bribed a police officer with R15 000. They were flying to Johannesburg.

The task team arrested Robert Simanda after his visa was found to have expired.

The source said Simanda’s friend, Ronald Kiggundu, offered the arresting officer a R15 000 bribe to let Simanda go.

The pair appeared in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court where Simanda was fined R1 000 for his expired visa and Kiggundu R15 000, half of which was suspended for three years, for bribing a police officer.

The source said the task team had also recovered more than 200 laptops, iPads and cellphones which were believed to have been stolen or not declared at customs.

One of the laptops had been reported stolen in Mayville this year and two BlackBerry cellphones had been traced to a robbery in Alberton in 2008.

The source said all the electronic goods that had been seized would be scrutinised by the police cyber-crimes unit to establish if they had been stolen.

On Wednesday two Nigerians were arrested on charges of fraud and bribing a police officer.

The source said one of the suspects was waiting to catch a flight to Johannesburg when police allegedly found him in possession of fraudulent credit cards.

“The cards were stuffed into the pockets of his pants None of them was in his name.

“He even had an international driving licence that belonged to a Rahim Jubril of New Guinea.”

The source said the suspect’s friend had offered police a R9 000 bribe to let him go free.

They were to appear in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court yesterday on charges of fraud and bribery.

The anti-smuggling task team was set up less than two months ago at the airport.

A source at the airport said the team comprised six members who were trained to profile passengers.

“These members work undercover and cannot be easily pointed out as they wear civilian clothes and sometimes even carry luggage,” he said.

“They mingle with passengers, looking for suspicious or nervous-looking people.”

The source said all ports of entry were compelled to have anti-smuggling task teams to root out criminal activity.

He said the team was also focusing on the cargo terminal to clamp down on any illegal or counterfeit goods entering the country.

He said in most instances foreigners believed money could buy them out of trouble.

“When they get arrested they are often shocked. It’s just double trouble for them.

“Also, many passengers think that King Shaka International is a relatively new airport and they can get away with criminal activities.

“They believe police are not on guard,” he said.

“This is not the case. Police officers are on the prowl 24/7. They are highly trained and can sniff trouble a mile away.

“People should not take chances. It could land them in jail for a long time.” - Daily News