South African court okays seizure of Nigeria's $9.3m

THE NATION Newspaper- Onyedi Ojaibor

South Africa has seized the $9.3 million Nigerian cash flown abroad a private jet into its capital, Johannesburg, from Abuja early this month.

Two Nigerians and an Israeli were travelling with the plane’s crew at the time the cash, which was not declared, was found on the plane.

South African security and Nigeria have launched an investigation into what transpired.

The explanation from Nigeria that the money was meant for arms purchase for the Nigeria intelligence agencies, has been rejected by South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa (NPA).

The NPA, in a statement, according to online publication Premium Times, said the manner in which the money was brought into the country breached the laws that deal with the transfer of foreign exchange of such proportion. “The money was initially detained by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) as it was not disclosed or declared at customs, and was above the prescribed legal limit for the amount of cash that may be brought into the country,” it said in a statement.

The NPA, according to the medium, said its investigation showed that Tier One Services Group, the firm the Nigerian government claimed it wanted to procure the arms from, is not authorised to sell or rent military hardware.

“In court papers, the NPA submitted evidence that Tier One is not registered with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee and is thus not authorised to enter into any agreements regarding the sale and/or rental of military equipment,” the statement read.

Tier One has apparently issued an invoice to a Cyprus based company, ESD International Group Ltd, ESD, in respect of the procurement of armaments and helicopters to be delivered to Nigeria.

However, South African investigators said the time when the invoice was prepared and the time the money was brought in threw up some serious issues of its true intent.

The money was ferried to South Africa less than a week from the date the invoice was prepared (September 8, 2014). The involvement of a Cyprus based company also heightens the suspicion that this may be a case of classical money laundering. Cyprus is known for its secretive banking system.

The NPA added that the transaction did not follow normal procedure in the procurement of the kind of equipment it was alleged to have been meant for.

The Senate yesterday summoned National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh and Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah over the smuggled $9.3 million cash.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, Senator George Sekibo, said those invited to appear before his committee on Tuesday would brief members on the incident.

He said: “ I don’t want to pre-empt issues because I have not heard details about the issue but they will be here on Tuesday.”

On the soldiers sentenced to death, Sekibo said he was not surprised that death sentence was passed on the 12 soldiers because before they joined military, they were aware of the implication of being involved in mutiny.

He added that before the judgment was passed, the army must have carried out their investigation on the matter.


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