The criminals, who used a bakkie with markings similar to that of police vehicles and a white Ford Focus, to pull off the heist, stole the money from a container on the runway.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “There’s a high-level investigation underway, which includes ourselves the Hawks, the police and other agencies.”

Airports Company South Africa spokesperson Trevor Jones confirmed the theft in a statement, saying the vehicles had sirens and blue lights activated and were occupied by several armed men, some in SA Police Service uniforms. They gained entry at a restricted access gate, North Gate 1.

“When requested to validate their credentials, the men produced firearms, rounded up security staff in the security checkpoint and ordered them to lie on the floor. The robbers proceeded to gain access to the airside of the airport where they removed an undisclosed amount of money from a sealed container. No shots were fired and no injuries were reported,” Jones said.

The vehicles exited through the same gate and have since been recovered in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria. Jones confirmed that the security guards had been replaced as a precautionary measure while investigations continue.

He added: “It was established that the bakkie had been made to look like an official police vehicle. Management of Airports Company South Africa is deeply concerned by this robbery and the manner in which it took place. We are working closely with law enforcement agencies to support both the investigation of this robbery and to establish what further measures will be taken.”