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South Africa Seizes Millions From Two Nigerians, Israeli

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The South African police are investigating two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen who tried to bring 9.3million USD (about 150bn) in cash into the country illegally. A spokesman said on Monday that it might have been part of an arms deal.

Reuters reported that the funds were seized by the South African Revenue Service at Lanseria Airport, north-west of Johannesburg, on September 5. The funds are being held at the central bank as police investigate. This information was given by Marika Muller, the spokeswoman for SARS.

According to the spokeswoman, "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".

South Africa's City Press newspaper reported that bundles of unused 100 dollar bills packed in three suitcases were transported in a small bsiness jet from the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The three passengers alleged that they were using it to buy arms for the Nigerian Security Services.

Solomon Makgale, the spokesman for South African airport declined to give details but confirmed a police investigation was going on.

The plane, a Bombardier Challenger 600, had a Nigerian flight crew on board. It was piloted by Captain Tunde Ojongbede, according to City Press.

A spokesperson for the SA Revenue Service, Adrian Lackay confirmed that customs officers became suspicious when the passengers' luggage was unloaded and put through the scanner just after 7pm. The officers then investigated and found three suitcases full of cash.

The passengers, who were said to be coming from Abuja apparently told officials they were acting on behalf of the Nigerian Intelligence Service. They provided documentation confirming they had come to South Africa to buy weapons. It is not clear whether the Israeli 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 presidency had demanded a status report from Nigeria's military attache at the High Commission in Pretoria, following the report that the two Nigerians and Israeli smuggled millions of dollars into South Africa.

Some intelligence agencies were reportedly trading blames because they were kept in the dark on the deal. They queried why the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was not asked to liaise with its counterpart in South Africa to prevent such a national embarrassment. A top official of the Department of State Security (DSS) said the "deal had nothing to do with our agency".

According to a source who spoke in confidence, "the Presidency is aware of the arrest and ongoing investigation of the deal and it has asked for a status report from our military attache and High Commission in South Africa.

It is when we get the preliminary report that the Federal Government will be able to react to the development.

Diplomatic interactions are ongoing to get to the root of the case being investigated by South Africa. The good dimension to the investigation is that it is South Africa that has opened the lid. It means it is beyond what anyone can hide if it is true".

Another source said: "For instance, the report was talking of Nigerian Intelligence Service whereas some agencies, like the DSS and NIA have said that they had nothing to do with the deal. Such purchase ought to put the NIA in the picture. It will be the duty of the NIA to liaise with its counterpart in South Africa if it would involve cash movement.

Even within the intelligence agencies, issues are being raised on why electronic transfer was not adopted by the team -in line with the nation's cashless policy. It is actually faster paying the suppliers of the arms through e- payment than cash movement".

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