/ 18 March 2008

US embassy warns of gangs at OR Tambo

According to the United States embassy, 14 Americans in the past 12 months have been robbed at gunpoint after landing at the OR Tambo international airport in Kempton Park, Beeld newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The embassy said that gangs of robbers targeted people arriving at airport and robbed them either at their destinations or on the way to their destinations.

The embassy’s website warned that organised criminal gangs were targeting visitors and residents at shopping malls and at the OR Tambo airport.

”When a victim is identified he or she is followed to his or her destination and robbed, usually at gunpoint, though the use of violence is generally limited to those who offer resistance.”

Beeld reported that another entry on the website read: ”It seems that certain employees at the airport are involved in crime and it is believed that these employees inform criminals waiting outside the airport about which tourists declared valuable items or cash.”

‘We want proof’

The paper reported media liaison officer for the embassy, Sharon Hudson-Dean, as saying that no travel warnings concerning South Africa have been issued.

This statement stands in contrast to the police task-team finding that no syndicates were operating at the airport that specifically targeted tourists.

Superintendent Vish Naidoo said the Department of Foreign Affairs had been contacted to pressure the Americans to remove the claims from their websites.

”They are free to warn their citizens but we want proof of these allegations … Our investigations have shown that these are nothing more than allegations,” Naidoo told Beeld. – Sapa