AFRICANGLOBE – The South African police are investigating two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen who tried to bring $9.3 million in cash into the country illegally, a spokesman said yesterday, in what might have been part of an arms deal.
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) seized the funds at Lanseria Airport, north-west of Johannesburg. The funds are being held at the central bank as police investigate, SARS spokeswoman, Marika Muller said. “The passengers’ luggage were 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.
According to reports, South Africa’s City Press newspaper reported that bundles of unused $100 bills packed in three suitcases were transported in a small business jet from the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
The Israeli national, Eyal Mesika, had the combination to open the locks. Investigations by South African authorities uncovered an invoice from Tier One Services, a subsidiary of the Tier One Services Group Limited, to Cyprus-based company, ESD International Group Ltd.
Given the armed unrest in parts of Nigeria including the terrorist attacks in the North-east and other parts of the country, any arms deal will naturally raise eyebrows in the country.
The three passengers said they were using it to buy arms for the Nigerian security services, City Press said.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in South Africa said an invoice for helicopters and armaments intended to be used in Nigeria, provided by the alleged smugglers, could provide details as to why they were bringing such money into the country.
Under South African laws, a person entering or leaving the country is expected to carry cash not exceeding R25,000 (about US$2,300), or the equivalent in foreign currency notes.
Also, arms transactions usually involve a complex bank transfer system needed to move the money between the countries involved in the deal; they are rarely done in cash.
The SARS seized the money initially because it was not disclosed at customs, said Nathi Mncube, NPA spokesperson.
By: Zaccheus Somorin
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