Min­is­ter must pay UK se­cu­rity firm R20m over heist

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KASHIEFA AJAM

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.

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