Zimbabwean among five in SA court over R200 million heist, accomplice nabbed after Social media Lamborghini bragging

JOHANNESBURG – A South Africa policeman is among the five people arrested for this month’s daring R200-million cash heist at OR Tambo International Airport.

The suspected kingpin behind the audacious OR Tambo International Airport cash heist has been arrested after posting pictures of himself with a new R5-million Lamborghini on social media.

The suspect, whose name is known to The Times, was arrested Sunday at his luxury Blue Valley Estate home in Centurion near Pretoria just hours after he posted pictures of himself and friends on social media with his new wheels.

On March 7 a gang of 13 men made off with an estimated R200-million in foreign currency which was being flown out of the country.

A week later police arrested four people allegedly linked to the heist, one of whom is a policeman. The latest arrest is believed to have come after police were alerted following suspicions about the purchase of the Lamborghini.

A source close to the police investigation said officers recovered a large amount of cash when they raided the suspect’s home.

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said he could not confirm or deny the arrests. 

A second source said the arrest followed the arrest of four other men on Saturday night. He said the first suspect, a 30-year-old security guard with Guardforce, was arrested in Tembisa, on the East Rand.

Guardforce was in charge of escorting the money to SAA flight 294 when it was stolen last week.

The source said the Guardforce guard worked at the vault where the money had been stored shortly before it was transferred to the aircraft.

The second arrest, of a 39-year old G4S security guard, occurred at Elandsfontein shortly afterwards, said the source. G4S was responsible for escorting the Guardforce employees in charge of the money.

“A Zimbabwean national, who is alleged to have cloned the police vehicles used in the heist, was arrested in Norkem Park. The fifth person arrested is also a guard, who is responsible for perimeter duties at the airport,” the source said. It is not clear who this guard was employed by. 

On Tuesday acting national police boss Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane announced the arrest of the four initial suspects.

Two have already appeared before the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court and face armed robbery charges.

They are expected to appear in court again later this week.

The heist has also resulted in five lieutenant-colonels being transferred from the airport, according to the Sunday Times.

Police are yet to confirm if some of the money has been recovered and are reportedly probing the exact amount stolen, the currency and the intended destination.

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.

Investigations are continuing. 

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