Tuesday, September 16, 2014 2:35 pm
South African police said Tuesday they had launched an investigation following the seizure of millions of dollars of cash found stashed in the luggage of two Nigerians and an Israeli.
Customs officials on 5 September confiscated $9.3 million dollars (7.2 million euros) in cash from the three passengers who landed on a private jet from Nigeria at Johannesburg’s Lanseria airport.
The jet ownership is being linked with Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christians Association of Nigeria and a close ally of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan.
The bags brought by the three passengers in the jet were searched “after customs officials detected irregularities in the luggage,” said South African Revenue Authority spokeswoman Marika Muller.
The cash, packed in 90 blocks of $100,000 each, was discovered on September 5 in two black plastic suitcases, prosecutors said.
The Israeli, named as Eyal Mesika, had the combination lock code for the suitcases. Some cash was also found in Mesika’s hand luggage. Mesika works in Nigeria as CEO EMI Systems Limited, specialising in security and investigations.
“The money was detained as it was undisclosed, undeclared and above the prescribed legal limit for bringing cash into the country,” said Muller.
The maximum cash allowance per traveller in South Africa is the equivalent of $2,285.
“Although various explanations about the money were given… these explanations were flawed and riddled with discrepancies,” said South Africa’s prosecution authority spokesman Nathi Mncube.
Police said no arrests had been made.
“We are still investigating,” police spokesman Solomon Makgale told AFP.
Mncube said investigations had shown that a South African company, Tier One Services, had issued Cyprus-based ESD International Group Ltd an invoice for the “purchase of various armaments and helicopters”.
Local media claimed that the invoice had been found on one of the passengers.
“The goods were intended to be used in Nigeria,” said Mncube.
Prosecutors said the normal procedure for the procurement of equipment was not followed and that Tier One does not have permission to sell or lease military gear.
On its website, the company says it offers aviation, logistics, security and risk management support.