Investigators question how gang bypassed security at OR Tambo airport

National police are working closely with Acsa and SAA to determine how the brazen heist was carried out.

FILE: OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Authorities are now investigating how a gang of robbers managed to bypass strict security at OR Tambo International Airport before making off with a consignment of expensive items.

Robbers dressed as police officers stole more than R20 million in foreign currency from the cargo area of the airport on Tuesday night.

The gang intercepted the consignment shortly before it was due to be loaded onto an international flight; it’s still unclear how the gang managed to enter the restricted area.

National police are working closely with the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) and South African Airways (SAA) to determine how the brazen heist was carried out.

Business owners at both domestic and international terminals appear oblivious to the heist, saying they only learnt about the crime through the media.

Travellers and people who work at the airport are also speculating that this could only have been an inside job.

One employee said: “It’s shocking because it’s not easy to go in there, even for us, people who work here.”

A traveller added: “I just think it’s a shame. How can the security be so bad that they just allow people to come in and just steal?”

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali says they are investigating all possibilities and can’t rule out that inside information was handed out to criminals.

“They may have received assistance from certain individuals.”

Several investigations are now underway to get to the bottom of robbery, while SAA says its own probe will determine whether any disciplinary steps need to be taken against airline staff.

INSIDE JOB

The organisation which represents air cargo handlers is convinced the multi-million rand robbery at OR Tambo International Airport was an inside job.

The Air Cargo Operators Committee’s Alwyn Rautenbach says it’s simply impossible to gain access to the airside cargo area without help from someone on the inside.

“The gates must have been open by security guards to get in and get out. Otherwise, the person will be identified by finger prints, by air flight access card, the vehicle had to be searched before it entered and before it exits and clearly that procedure was not followed.”

He says the association has been trying since 2007 to improve security and access control to the area, but they’ve received very little co-operation from the ACSA.

LISTEN: Eyewitnesses suspect inside job

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)