South African police chief assures public of airport safety after heist

Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane said on Thursday that all measures will be taken to ensure the safety of South African airports.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has already embarked on a process to identify security shortcomings and to implement measures to enhance airport safety, Phahlane said at a press briefing in Pretoria.

He was speaking after an astounding amount of 24 million rand (about 1.9 million US dollars) in cash was stolen from a South African Airways plane at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.

A group of armed suspects posing as police officers in a marked police vehicle intercepted security guards as they were transporting money to a waiting aircraft. No shots were fired and no injuries have been reported.

The SAPS views the armed robbery and the attendant security breaches "in a serious light," Phahlane said.

Although this incident is regrettable and unfortunate, the SAPS and all role players are compelled to continuously review the security measures aimed at curbing the recurrence of incidents of this nature, said Phahlane.

"We can assure our communities and visitors to our country that we are doing everything possible to ensure that the robbery and all circumstances surrounding the incident form the subject of an intensive, multi-disciplinary investigation," he said.

Phahlane said initial speculation pointed to a police vehicle having been used to commit the crime.

However, he said a vehicle which was believed to be used in the heist and was found abandoned in Mamelodi near Pretoria proved to be one with fake police markings.

"When the perpetrators are arrested, we would not be surprised to learn that some of them were bogus police officers. However, we will investigate and arrest objectively and should we find evidence of any type of police or other collusion we will take decisive action," he said.

If bona fide police uniforms or equipment were used by the suspects, the source of those uniforms/equipment will also form part of the investigations, said Phahlane.

The process of the investigation is underway which includes interviewing all role players and personnel charged with duties in and around the airport, according to the police chief.

The OR Tambo International Airport is notorious for armed robberies.

Reports suggest that up to 10 heists, with the same modus operandi, have occurred at the same airport last year. Many of these heists have been carried out by individuals dressed in police uniforms.

 

- Xinhua

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