Thieves wearing South African police uniforms staged a brazen heist at the main international airport in Johannesburg, making off with an unknown amount of cash, officials said Wednesday.
No shots were fired and no injuries were reported in the armed robbery, which occurred at around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at O.R. Tambo International Airport, said Airports Company South Africa, which manages the facility.
“The robbers proceeded to gain access to the airside of the airport where they removed an undisclosed amount of money from a sealed container,” the statement said.
With sirens and blue lights on, the thieves pulled up at a restricted gate in two vehicles, one with “what appeared to be police markings,” the statement said, adding that security at the airport has since been tightened.
The Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition party, said it will ask a police watchdog agency to investigate whether police “members or assets” were used in the heist. It also said it will question the police and transport ministers about security at South African airports.
A company that tries to counter organized crime in the banking industry said it was deeply concerned by the boldness of the criminals as well as their ability to gain access to a secure area.
“It is evident that the heist was executed using accurate information,” the South African Banking Risk Information Centre said in a statement. “This incident exacerbates an already dire situation of attacks on cash in transit vehicles and staff.”
The group said it recorded 269 cash in transit “incidents” in 2016, though it did not say how many of those robbery attempts were successful. Some 57 incidents have been recorded so far this year, it said.
In 2006, thieves stole large amounts of cash from a plane at O.R. Tambo airport. Some gang members were later convicted.
South African police have periodically warned that some criminal gangs tail arriving travelers in vehicles from the Johannesburg airport and rob them on the road or when they reach their destination.