/ 10 March 2008

‘No syndicate’ targeting air travellers at OR Tambo

Foreign nationals arriving at OR Tambo International Airport will not be required to furnish customs officials with their addresses, the border control operational coordinating committee said on Monday.

Committee chairperson Humbulani Ravele told a press briefing: ”As a precautionary measure, customs officials removed the address fill-ins on the forms.”

This follows a recent pattern of robberies involving people who travelled from the airport by road.

A syndicate was suspected of targeting high commissioners, robbing them of their belongings. The incidents included envoys from France, Vietnam and Tanzania.

In July last year, South African High Commissioner to the United States Dumisani Khumalo was robbed at his son’s house in Greenside after he had arrived from the airport.

Ravele said a task team had found no evidence to link the crimes to a syndicate.

”Police haven’t found any evidence of officials and airport employees at OR Tambo colluding in any way with a syndicate at the airport,” he said.

Police Superintendent Vish Naidoo said reports suggesting there was a syndicate operating at OR Tambo were unfounded.

”In police dockets, none of these incidents are linked to the airport. Infrastructure at the airport doesn’t allow for a syndicate to operate,” Naidoo said.

He said police were concerned about contradicting statements given to police and the media by the victims.

”From an investigations point of view we are not concerned, we go by what is given to us because it is given under oath.

”From the image of the country’s point of view we are worried.”

He said a specialised investigation executed by the South African Police Service, the investigative unit of the South African Revenue Service, and Airports Company South Africa would continue.

”Whoever has evidence must bring it to the police,” he said. — Sapa