Robbers ‘pose as police’ in Johannesburg airport heist

Armed Police officers guard the plane before the players disembark as the England team arrive at Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport for the 2010 FIFA World Cup on June 3, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.Image copyright
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Security was tight at OR Tambo airport during the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa

Armed thieves masquerading as police have carried out a robbery at Johannesburg’s international airport in South Africa, reports say.

The thieves are said to have driven into a restricted zone and taken containers of cash.

Estimates vary but reports suggest that millions of dollars in different currencies may have been stolen.

The company that operates OR Tambo Airport, the continent’s busiest, confirmed a robbery had taken place.

“No shots were fired and no injuries have been reported. The robbers fled‚” Airports Company South Africa said in a statement, the TimesLive news website reports.

The Hawks, an elite police unit, declined to release details.

‘Hollywood heist’

But a source within the unit has described the robbery as looking like “something scripted from a Hollywood movie”, South African journalist Graeme Hosken told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

The journalist added that the thieves, who used special access passes to get into the airport, knew exactly which containers to take and were careful to get hold of small denomination notes, which are thought to be easier to pass on.

A police spokeswoman, Athlenda Mathe, was quoted by South African broadcaster eNCA as saying she could not comment on “how much money exactly was stolen”.

Guards from a private security firm protecting the valuable cargo were stopped by the robbers, who were travelling in a vehicle marked with “police”, TimesLive says.

There have been reports of other high-value cargo robberies in recent years at the airport.

Robbers ‘pose as police’ in Johannesburg airport heist