by Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo
The South African Police have said they are investigating two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen who tried to bring money into the country illegally. the alleged amount is $9.3 million which is feared to be earmarked for arms.
The plane, a Bombardier Challenger 600, had a Nigerian flight crew on board. It was piloted by Captain Tunde Ojongbede, according to City Press. Spokesperson for the SA Revenue Service confirmed that 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 two Nigerians who claimed to be acting on behalf of Nigerian government provided documentation confirming they had come to South Africa to buy weapons. It is not clear whether the Israeli passenger was an intelligence operative or an arms dealer.
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 South African Revenue Service (SARS) seized the funds at Lanseria airport, northwest of Johannesburg, on Sept. 5. The funds are being held at the central bank as police investigate, SARS spokeswoman Marika Muller 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,” Muller said in a statement.
South Africa’s City Press newspaper reported that bundles of unused $100 bills packed in three suitcase were transported in a small business jet from the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The three passengers said they were using it to buy arms for the Nigerian security services, City Press said.