Brazen Pretoria CIT robbery sparks fears of early start to SA heist season
Thirty AK47-wielding robbers in 10 vehicles hit cash van outside SAPS crime intelligence unit
An attack in Pretoria by 30 AK47-wielding gunmen on a Fidelity Cash Management Services van has sparked fears that SA’s annual heist season has started early.
At 9.15am on Sunday, the gunmen – who had set up an ambush outside the offices of the SAPS crime intelligence unit in Vonkprop Road, Silverton – launched their attack.
At the time the van was en route to a G4S cash collection depot.
While some of the robbers targeted the cash van, ramming it off the road, with the driver crashing into the perimeter fence of the police building, others turned on the backup vehicle, shooting and injuring at least one of the guards.
Sources with knowledge of the attack said it was well executed.
“These guys were well armed. They were carrying several kilograms of explosives. All were armed with AK47s. The amount of firepower they had and the numbers involved in the attack are alarming. Some seem to have been armed with armour-piercing ammunition.
“You can see from how the attack was carried out and where the gunmen were positioned that they were operating on a well-laid plan, which included deliberately setting alight the BMW which was used to ram the cash van. By burning the BMW, they destroyed a lot of potential evidence which could identify them.”
A source said the cash van was believed to be transporting a large sum of money.
“It is just fortunate that the van’s security design prevented the gunmen from getting into all the vaults. The guys had to set three different explosive devices. That delayed them and they had to flee before they could get to the main vaults.”
Police spokesperson Col Athlenda Mathe confirmed the heist.
She said 10 vehicles were used. Mathe said a white BMW, used to ram the cash van, was set alight and burnt out.
She said nine other vehicles, including four Ford Rangers and two Toyota Hilux bakkies, along with a BMW, Mercedes and a VW Tiguan were used by the robbers.
“The guards inside the van [were forced out of the vehicle], with AK47 assault rifles and taken away from the van.
“The suspects took the guards' two 9mm pistols and 30 rounds of 9mm ammunition.”
She said one of the guards from the backup vehicle was shot and injured in the attack and taken to hospital.
“The suspects escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.”
These guys thought it was their payday, but fortunately our team's training kicked in and they were able to react well and avert a total bloodbath.Fidelity CEO Wahl Bartmann
Fidelity Cash Management Services CEO Wahl Bartmann said their officers had done extremely well under “terrifying conditions”.
“They managed to fend off a large number of the attackers and cause them to flee.”
He said because of the security systems built into the vans, the robbers had had to set off three different charges to try to gain access to the vaults.
“Of the 14 vaults on this particular van, the robbers could only get into two. Of the 10 bags of cash in the two vaults, they only managed to escape with about eight.”
Bartmann said it was clear from how the attack was carried out that it had been planned down to the minutest detail.
“They would have known the van was carrying a lot of cash and the route it was travelling. You could see from how the attack was carried out that they had teams who were following the backup vehicle, teams following the van, and teams who had blocked the route to the G4S depot where the money was being delivered, as well as all the escape routes.
“These guys have weapons and explosives training. Photographs indicate that they had the expertise and know-how to place three separate explosive devices within seconds of each explosion.
“From where the bullets struck the van, you can see they know exactly where and how to shoot. They were definitely not playing around. These guys thought it was their payday, but fortunately our team's training kicked in and they were able to react well and avert a total bloodbath.”
He said they were worried that the robbers’ use of force was a sign of things to come.
“There is definitely a rise in heists happening, though not many have been successful. In the past few months we have had 17 attempted attacks on our vehicles.”