Airport heist suspects appear in court‚ police launch witch hunt for media sources
A policeman is among the five people arrested for this month’s daring R200-million cash heist at OR Tambo International Airport.
The arrest follows the launch of a witch-hunt by police for The Times sources following the publication of photographs and information on the weekend’s arrest and investigation into the robbery.
The five - France Manaka‚ Simon Thlokwane‚ Prince Raphael Dube‚ Sibusiso Mnisi and Thando Sonqishe - bring the number of people caught for the robbery‚ South Africa’s biggest heist‚ to seven.
Two - Mosiwa Muthame and Khulekani Sibanda - were arrested last week. They were released on R50 000 bail and are expected back in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court on Friday.
Manaka‚ Thlokwane‚ Dube‚ Mnisi and Sonqishe‚ who were remanded in custody on Momday‚ are due back in court on March 28 and March 29 for a formal bail application.
While they currently face charges of robbery with aggravated circumstances‚ more charges‚ according to sources‚ are due to be leveled against them.
Their appearance follows their arrest by officers from specialised police task force on Saturday and Sunday in a series of raids across Gauteng.
In those raids police apparently seized cash and a rare multi-million-rand Lamborghini.
The arrests are believed to have occurred following a flurry of social media posts by some of the accused‚ including photographs of the Lamborghini.
The Times on Monday revealed how the social media posts had apparently led in part to the suspects' undoing.
A lawyer for one of the accused‚ who declined to comment on who owned the Lamborghini‚ said he would only comment after the men appeared in court next week and he had time to consult with his clients.
Following the social media posts on FaceBook on Monday‚ a user claimed that he was an undercover police agent in one of the published pictures.
“So everyone think i m OR Tambo thief haai [sic].” Attempts to get comment from him failed.
It’s not known why he was posing next to the vehicle.
Police on Monday criticised The Times for publishing the images and the news of the arrest.
Colonel Athlenda Mathe‚ who confirmed a policeman was among those arrested‚ said they were disappointed that information and photographs apparently peddled to the media were published.
“We ask that our investigators be allowed to continue with investigations and that credible information be sourced from court proceedings. Those who seek to compromise police investigations should not be afforded the opportunity to do so.”
She said soliciting information from officers involved in the investigation was of serious concern.
“We are looking into the matter‚ to establish which of our members are leaking information to various media houses. This is not assisting us in anyway with regards to the ongoing investigation. The publishing of articles should not be to the detriment of our investigation and will not be condoned.”
She said evidence seized in the weekend raids would form part of the court case.
- TMG Digital/The Times