625 27.06.2012 Salim Patel speaks to The Star about the how he was robbed five hundred dollars by people claiming to be police officers at ORT International Airport. Picture:Sharon Seretlo

Aarti Narsee

A visit by Salim Patel to the OR Tambo International Airport to pick up a family visitor turned into costly affair when his friend was asked to pay $500 to be able to stay in the country.

Patel’s 22-year-old friend, who he did not wish to name, had arrived from India on an SAA flight and had passed customs and immigration without any problems.

However, just as the friend exited at the arrival section, he was stopped by an armed man, who was not in uniform, and asked to open his bag for a search.

“I was concerned about my friend, so I approached the man to ask him what was wrong. After the search had been conducted, the man asked my friend to empty his pockets and removed his passport and other items,” said Patel about the incident one Monday morning recently.

The man, dressed in a white T-shirt and blue jeans, had been standing outside the arrival section, while the SAPS stood nearby.

Patel said the man then reached into his friend’s pocket and removed $1 000 – his spending money for his holiday.

“We were taken to a nearby office and I was asked for my documentation,” said Patel. He presented his passport and his working permit.

“I could not understand why this man was harassing me as I have lived in SA for 15 years,” said Patel.

The man asked his friend for $300. Patel said he had no choice but to pay the money, as the passenger was his guest.

The situation got out of hand when two women approached them and demanded $500. “One of them told me that if I did not pay, she would send my friend back to India,” said Patel. “After I had paid the money, the women continued to harass me.”

Patel later lodged a complaint at the Kagiso police station but was told that his case will be dealt with by Kempton Park police station.

Lieutenant Lungelo Dlamini of the SAPS provincial headquarters said: “We are not aware of any similar incidences taking place at OR Tambo International Airport.”