Two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen are presently being held by South African police for attempting to illegally bring $9.3m cash into the country. South Africa’s City Press newspaper reported that the accused persons brought the money which is in bundles of unused $100 bills, packed in three suitcases in a small business jet, a Bombardier Challenger 600 with a Nigerian crew.
According to the report, the jet departed Abuja on September 5 and when it arrived South Africa, Customs officers became suspicious when the passengers’ luggage was unloaded and put through the scanners just after 7pm.
The officers then investigated and found three suitcases full of cash. The passengers then told customs officials that they were acting on behalf of the Nigerian intelligence services and provided documentation to confirm that they had come to South Africa to buy weapons for Nigerian security services. It was not clear whether the Israeli passenger was an intelligence operative or an arms dealer.
Spokesperson of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), Marika Muller in a statement, said the money was seized at Lanseria airport, northwest of Johannesburg. The statement said: “The passengers’ luggage was searched after Customs officials detected irregularities. The money was detained as it was undisclosed/undeclared and above the prescribed legal limit. The funds are being held at the central bank as police investigate”.
Also, South African airport security spokesman Solomon Makgale confirmed that police investigation was on-going but declined to give further details.
The National Conventional Arms Control Committee, which has to approve the import and export of any weapons as well as issue permits for such transactions, was not aware of any applications in this case.
The Nigerian security service is yet to respond to inquiries for confirmation of the story.
The aircraft according to investigation used to belong to the American healthcare company Kimberly-Clark. But company spokesperson Bob Brand said the firm had sold the plane years ago, and denied that it had anything to do with the incident. According to the US Federal Aviation Administration aeroplane register, the Challenger, with the registration number N808HG, was re-registered in the name of Bank of Utah Trustee last year. The address in the register was given as Salt Lake City, US.
Aviation industry insiders claim similar “owners” have previously been involved in several controversial financing transactions for aircraft in Africa. City Press has also established that the aircraft is used by an entity called Swat Inc in Abuja, but no details of such a company could be found.
Another plane used by Swat Inc, a Hawker-Siddeley 125, also with an American registration number (N497AG), landed at Lanseria Airport last month. That plane and its passengers remained in the country for two days before returning to Abuja on August 13.