Minister must pay UK security firm R20m over heist
WHILE two brothers acquitted of involvement in one of South Africa’s biggest armed robberies plan to sue the Police minister for R60 million in damages, it has now emerged that the minister has been ordered to pay UK company G4S International millions.
The security company successfully sued minister Nathi Mthethwa earlier this year for $1.8m (R18.3m), or the rand equivalent, and R2.1m, plus interest.
The money was stolen from OR Tambo International Airport by a gang of robbers in a brazen heist in March 2006. Police arrested the robbers at the Beitbridge border post and confiscated the money, securing it in a safe at the Benoni police station.
But even that proved unsafe, when police themselves drilled open the safe and stole the money a day before an audit was supposed to take place.
In his judgment, Judge Willis said there was evidence to suggest that it was a simulated break-in because the evidence did not tally as precisely as it should.
“The damage inflicted by the break-in was inconsistent with what would have been necessary to remove the moneys recovered. It is quite clear that this money could only have been taken by police offi- cers. The evidence is overwhelming that the access to the safe in order to remove the sums of money could only have been achieved through the inside knowledge and insider activity of police officers.”
There was much to suggest, the judge said, that the May 25, 2006 break-in at the Benoni Police Station was simulated.
“It took place precisely because police officers knew that an audit was going to take place on either the 25th or the 26th, and that the missing amounts would be discovered. I have no difficulty in finding that there was negligence on the part of police officers, that the police officers acted in the course and scope of their employment and, accordingly, that the Minister is liable.”
Yesterday, Ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi confirmed Judge Willis’s order, adding that the police intended complying.
“However, it should be noted that the SAPS has applied for leave to appeal certain parts of the judgment, and are still awaiting a court date,” Mnisi said.
Earlier this month Cape Town lawyer Rooshdeen Rudolph and his brother, baker Shaheed, who were facing several charges including attempted murder and robbery related to the 2006 heist, were acquitted of all charges.
Twenty-four men held up guards and police on board a South African Airways plane at the airport and stole money bags that had been flown from the UK, destined for several SA banks.
The brothers plan to each claim R30m in damages from the state.
Seven men were tried and sentenced for their involve- ment in the heist.
Six are serving prison terms between eight and 22 years.
Although charges were eventually withdrawn against two police officers in 2008, the officers, Paul Kgoedi and Serious Mthembi, claimed they were tortured while in custody.
They claimed they were stripped naked, blindfolded, tied to a chair and repeatedly beaten, suffocated and shocked with a cattle prod.
Two other men arrested on suspicion of involvement in the theft from the Benoni police safe died after they were allegedly shot and suffocated in police custody, while two others were gunned down by unidentified snipers.