Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
A ZIMBABWEAN man is suspected to be a key figure in the multi-million rand OR Tambo International Airport heist that happened early this month.
Media reports from South Africa name the suspect as Prince Raphael Dube (40), who was responsible for cloning the police vehicle used in the March 7, R200-million heist. He was arrested in Norkem Park, northern Kempton Park in Gauteng.
Dube together with four other suspects appeared in court briefly yesterday at Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court.
Other suspects arrested together with Dube over the weekend are Thokwane Simon (37), Mathabatha Frans Manaka (30), Sibusiso Job Mnisi (39) and Mosiwa Steven Motani (35).
The matter was postponed to March 28 and March 29 for a formal bail application and they were remanded in custody.
They are charged with armed robbery.
“Three of the men are security guards at Africa’s busiest airport, and one guarded the vault in which the stolen millions were kept,” reports say.
It is believed that one of the suspects was arrested at his luxury Blue Valley home just hours after posting pictures of himself and friends on social media posing with a brand new R5-million Lamborghini.
Reports say lawyers for the accused‚ who were approached to provide clarity especially on which accused was in possession of a Lamborghini sports car said they could only comment further after the bail applications next week‚ as they had not yet had time to fully consult with their clients.
Zimbabwe’s consul-general to South Africa Mr Bataishe Mukonoweshuro said they had engaged police over the suspected Zimbabwean national but police had neither denied nor confirmed anything.
“There has been a report in one of the papers but we haven’t got verification from the police. They say they are following the leads. It is believed that Dube was responsible for cloning a police vehicle used in the heist together with four other suspects. But as of now we cannot verify anything, we are awaiting their appearance in court,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro.
Reports say the men had been arrested in a joint operation by the Hawks, the provincial tracking team and crime intelligence on Friday and Saturday.
“One of the suspects, arrested at a luxurious Centurion estate, was found in possession of a Lamborghini and a large amount of cash. Last week, Mosiwa Steven Motani (35), and Khululekani Sibanda (31), also appeared in the same court in connection with the heist,” a report says.
They were both released on bail of R50 000 each.
According to media reports a total of R200m in foreign currency was stolen from an airplane at the airport.
Suspects in a marked police vehicle intercepted the money after a South African Airways flight landed on March 7. A white Mercedes-Benz is believed to have also been used in the operation.
The South African police said a high-level investigation, involving all law enforcement agencies, was underway.