Sixteen police officers have been arrested by the Hawks for allegedly stealing narcotics confiscated from drug mules at OR Tambo International Airport.
They are alleged to have been doing this for several years.
A 17th police officer would be added to the case at a later stage as he was in isolation due to Covid-19, said the National Prosecuting Authority in a statement.
The police officers were suspected of operating a drug syndicate at the continent’s busiest airport.
Gauteng NPA regional spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the 16 police members were due to appear at the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
They would appear at Regional Court 1 on 233 counts ranging from racketeering, dealing in drugs or, unlawful possession of drugs, theft and defeating the ends of justice, said Mjonondwana.
Mjonondwana said the Hawks, also known as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), arrested 12 of the officers on Friday while four handed themselves in during the past weekend.
“Reports of allegations of corruption and a possible drug syndicate operating at the OR Tambo International Airport prompted an undercover operation that began in October 2018 by members of the Crime Intelligence and the Hawks, working closely with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Gauteng Local Division,” said director of public prosecutions in Gauteng, advocate Andrew Chauke.
“The officers are alleged to have been stealing drugs confiscated from drug mules at the OR Tambo International Airport.
“It is alleged their actions resulted in these drug mules being charged with possession of drugs of a lesser weight and such actions were detrimental to the administration of justice,” said Mjonondwana.
Hawks national spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed the arrest of the police officers and also announced another sting operation which netted traffic officers.
Mulaudzi said the Hawks conducted two operations that resulted in the arrest of the 16 police officers and 13 Tshwane traffic officers.
The two cases were not linked, said Mulaudzi.
“We conducted two operations that ran simultaneously and arrested a total of 29 officers. Both cases deal with corruption. The traffic officers were arrested for demanding bribes from motorists.
“The traffic officers will appear at Pretoria, Hammanskraal and Themba magistrates’ courts respectively, while the police officers will appear at Kempton Park.”
The Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) announced it would issue all the accused with letters of intention to suspend them.
TMPD said it acknowledged the arrest of the 13 with regret.
The Tshwane Metro Police communication unit’s Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said the arrests were as a result of an ongoing investigation which started about two years ago to root out corruption within the policing sector.
He said the TMPD also formed part of these operations and assisted in the arrest of these members.
Mahamba said other organisations involved in the arrests included the Hawks, South African Police Service, Road Traffic Management Corporation and national road traffic enforcement.
“The chief [of the TMPD], Johanna Nkomo, has welcomed the arrest of the officers and will issue all the accused officers with letters of intention to suspend after their court appearance on Tuesday.
“She also warned that they will continue to work very hard to root out corrupt members within the TMPD,” said Mahamba.
Mahamba said the administrator for compliance, Lebogang More, also welcomed the arrests and vowed to assist the TMPD in rooting out corruption.
“Members who perform their duties with honesty and integrity are encouraged to continue to do so, and those who are involved in corrupt activities should stop immediately.
“Possibilities of more arrests cannot be ruled out at this stage as investigations are ongoing,” said Mahamba.