R102m seized at Lanseria raises questions – NPA

2014-09-15 17:57

An invoice for helicopters and armaments intended to be used in Nigeria could indicate why an Israeli citizen was bringing $9.3 million (about R102 million) into South Africa, says the National Prosecuting Authority.

“The case relates to cash which was brought into the country on a flight from Nigeria to Lanseria Airport on September 5 2014,” said NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube.

Two black plastic suitcases, filled with 90 blocks each containing $100 000 in notes, with combination locks, were seized, as well as two pieces of hand luggage also containing US currency.

Israeli national Eyal Mesika had the combination to open the locks.

The SA Revenue Service seized the money initially, as it was not disclosed at customs, said Mncube.

The crimes against the state unit of the Hawks took up the investigation, and uncovered an invoice from Tier One Services, a subsidiary of the Tier One Services Group Limited, to Cyprus-based company ESD International Group Ltd.

According to its website, the Teir One Services Group “provides aviation, logistics, security, risk management support and specialised training services to organisations and individuals operating in austere and challenging environments”.

It has offices across the Middle East and Africa.

The invoice from Tier One to ESD was for armaments and helicopters, said Mncube.

“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 agreement between Tier One and ESD was concluded on September 8, three days after the money was seized at Lanseria.

On Friday the NPA’s asset forfeiture unit was granted an order in the North Gauteng High Court for the freezing of the cash recovered at the airport.

“The NPA ... submitted to the court that, although various explanations about the money were given to the investigating officer, these explanations were flawed and riddled with discrepancies.

“The order was granted in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which provides that property that is used to commit a crime can be frozen while the NPA applies for a final order to forfeit the money to the state.”

Mncube said the money was being kept safe by the SA Reserve Bank.

The Hawks could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yesterday, Rapport newspaper reported that the money was confiscated from two Nigerians and an Israeli, reportedly acting on behalf of the Nigerian intelligence service, which could not be confirmed by the country’s authorities.

The group also reportedly had documents confirming they were in South Africa to buy arms.

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