File picture: Mujahid Safodien/AP
Pretoria – Acting National Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane has remained mum on the modus operandi used during the robbery at OR Tambo International Airport.

He was addressing the media in Pretoria on Thursday after the brazen robbery that saw a group of armed men stealing an alleged R20 million.

Phahlane confirmed that one of the police branded vehicles used during the heist had been found in Mamelodi.

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) said in a statement that a bakkie with what appeared to be police markings had pulled up at a restricted access gate, North Gate 1. It had been closely followed by a white Ford Focus. Both vehicles had had their sirens and blue lights on. The vehicles had been occupied by several armed men, some of whom were in police uniform.

Phahlane refused to go into detail about the incident, the amount taken, the currency or even the destination of the flight from which it was taken.

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“Even if we were told the amount was R20m or R24m, that is still subject to investigation, which must be verified and includes the currency and where the money was going to,” he said. “We are not going to say there were never breaches, but what would be helpful would be for people to come forward with information.”

Phahlane was evasive about the incident being an inside job which involved SAPS members and airport personnel.

“We cannot rule out any inside job and we cannot rule out any collusion in this regard. Our view is: let’s be allowed space to piece things together.”

Acsa chief executive Bongani Maseko said the blame for the security breach could not be solely placed at Acsa’s feet, but a shared responsibility with cargo operators needed to be assumed.

“We encourage cargo operators to have security programmes, because as you turn over your cargo, you have a responsibility to make sure that you have adequate security around your cargo, and that it gets to its destination,” he said.

“What we have emphasised to our cargo operators is that it cannot solely be the responsibility of Acsa and the police to provide security. We do, but we advise them to have security as well.”

Referring to past incidents, Maseko said: “There were repeated thefts of cellphones and other high end electronics.

“We said to them: (cargo operators) you are the only people who know what is being shipped, and how much of your staff you vet to prevent information from getting out about shipments coming in.

“It’s a collective responsibility and should not be restricted to the landlord and the police.”

The Star