GRAEME HOSKEN | TIMESLIVE | 05 June, 2013
Crime intelligence policemen – some of whom have the country’s highest security clearances – have been arrested after being linked to deadly cash-in-transit heists involving millions.
The arrests, including that of a senior officer said to be the mastermind behind the heists and bank robberies, have again cast the spotlight on the infamous police unit and raised yet more concerns about the state of policing.
The arrests of two crime intelligence officers brings to an end a three-year undercover operation.
Four other crime intelligence officers are being investigated and three civilians have been arrested.
The operation mounted against the officers – whose jobs included the assessment of threats to the state – was led by the Hawks and involved the cooperation of cash-management companies.
The policemen are believed to have planned some of the biggest cash heists in South Africa.
According to police sources, the arrested officers were believed to have been planning what would have been one of South Africa’s biggest heists, on heavily guarded trucks transporting cash and gold bullion to the Reserve Bank, in Pretoria.
The police breakthrough came after a crime intelligence captain known as ”Mr KGB” was arrested on Saturday night near the Durban beachfront, hours before he was to have competed in the Comrades Marathon.
The officer – the ringleader, according to police and cash-in-transit company sources – was wanted in connection with an attack on a Protea Coin cash-in-transit van in the Free State town of Sasolburg in February. In all, R3-million was stolen and none of it has been recovered.
Another officer was arrested last week.
The two will appear in the Sasolburg Magistrate’s Court tomorrow along with three other men wanted for a spate of armed robberies that claimed several lives.
Police sources said yesterday that the arrested officers’ jobs involved intelligence gathering and threat assessments of attacks on cash-in-transit trucks and on vehicles carrying gold or platinum.
Senior police officers said the heads of cash-management companies and the national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, were scheduled to meet later this week to discuss the implications of the arrest of officers with top security clearances.
An officer with knowledge of the arrests said the senior officer, a captain, had been on the run since last week.
“He disappeared shortly before police raided his Karen Park home in Pretoria. Investigators traced him to Durban, where they arrested him.
“During his arrest, his colleagues threatened the arresting officers, [and] Protea Coin operatives [in a bid] to quash the investigation.”
Among those who tried to stop the arrest were several policemen involved in assessing security threats to the state.
“These guys are meant to protect but they are deliberately endangering the country,” the officer said.
A cash-in-transit source said the policemen allegedly supplied information on the movement of cash and precious metals, and arranged the provision of police equipment, including vehicles, firearms and uniforms, for the attacks.
A cash-management industry insider said that cash-in-transit security was tight – including continuous on-the-ground and aerial surveillance – and information on movements of valuables was limited to a handful of people.
“[But] with rogue police who have intimate knowledge of movements, times, security and contents, nothing is impossible.”
The chief operating officer at Protea Coin, Waal de Waal, said it was shocking that policemen had been arrested for such serious crimes.
“It’s sabotage,” he said.
He would not comment on the meeting with Phiyega.
Albert Erasmus, the managing director of G4S Cash Solutions, said it was appalling that police who had been trusted with information to fight crime were allegedly behind the heists.
“It makes the fight, which was being won, very tough.”
Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko confirmed the policemen’s arrests on armed robbery and attempted murder charges.
He would not say whether more police officers faced arrest.
“The case is sensitive. We cannot elaborate on what had [been] or is being planned.
“What I can say is that the policemen allegedly used their work knowledge, which involved security assessments, to commit crime,” Ramaloko said.