From chiselling into safe rooms to drugging security guards, South Africa’s most high-profile heists are the stuff movies are made of.

On Tuesday night, robbers made off with an estimated R24-million in what appeared to be a well-planned robbery possibly involving police, at OR Tambo International Airport.

The robbery is not the first at OR Tambo International Airport. In the second half of 2001, at the then-Johannesburg International Airport, $6.5-million was stolen from a Swissair cargo plane, and almost $10-million from a KLM cargo plane.

This, however, is only a quarter of the amount stolen during the country’s biggest robbery 11 years ago.

Here’s a list of the most notorious heists over the past 20 years:

On March 25, 2006, a gang of 24 men armed with AK-47s stole R100-million in cash from an SAA plane at OR Tambo International Airport.

They held up police officers and guards after the flight landed and helped themselves to bags of currency flown in from Britain.

It was later discovered that airport staff had helped plan it.
After a six-year trial, seven suspects were tried and sentenced for their involvement in the heist.

On the night of April 27 2014, an armed gang overpowered and drugged security guards at an SBV cash centre in Witbank.

They cut open a safe and stole R87-million. The robbers left the four drugged guards on the Kromdraai Road. Seventeen people were arrested, among them a former Hawks captain, SBV employees, and a police reservist.

A group of hackers spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in 2012 stealing R43-million from the Post Bank system. They transferred the funds into various accounts.

One of the men was nabbed in Welkom almost two months later. He pleaded guilty to fraud and was jailed for 15 years.

In the biggest cash robbery in South Africa at the time, more than R31-million was stolen from the SBV cash centre in Westmead, Pinetown, in August 1996.

The gang stole three rifles, four guns, two cars, ammunition, and three video cameras.

A guard opened the gate for the robbers and another pretended to be held hostage while the security cameras were cut.

Nineteen people, including policemen, SBV guards, a lawyer, and several women were arrested. Sixteen of them were convicted.

Last month, six robbers stole jewellery worth R8m from a man shortly after he landed at Cape Town International Airport, despite having an escort of four private security guards.

The victim had bought the jewellery at an auction in Johannesburg. He and his entourage were ambushed by men wearing balaclavas and armed with R4 and R5 rifles, shotguns, and pistols.

A .38 special revolver belonging to one of the security guards was also stolen. Two stolen cars used in their escape were recovered on Airport Approach Road.

In 2013, robbers hacked their way into a safe room at the FNB Stadium and stole R3m – the weekend cash takings following a Justin Bieber concert.

They had spent several days chiselling through the safe room’s double-thick walls and used ropes to lower themselves down a three-metre drop, officials believed.

FNB safety deposit boxes
On December 18 2016, robbers overpowered a security guard and used a jackhammer to steal 360 safety deposit boxes from the FNB branch in Randburg, Johannesburg.

On New Year’s Eve 2016, thieves broke into the FNB branch in Parktown, Johannesburg, and stole valuables worth about R1.7-million from 30 safety deposit boxes.

Over a week later, 250 of the boxes were found in a veld near the FNB Stadium.

Two men, Norman Moeli and Maredi Letsoalo, were arrested. Their case is being heard in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court. – News24