Friday, 19 September 2014
Seized $9.3m Scandal: South Africa Insists on Criminal Probe
There are strong indications that efforts of the Nigerian Government to ensure amicable settlement of issues surrounding the $9.3m seized by South Africa have failed.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, in an email to our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday, said that the matter was still under criminal investigations.
There were reports on Wednesday that $9.3m, which was seized from two Nigerians and an Israeli in Johannesburg, was meant for procurement of arms for intelligence agencies in Nigeria.
It was also reported that the Federal Government was aware of the move to procure arms.
The PUNCH and other newspapers had reported that the Federal Government had begun diplomatic talks with South Africa to ensure resolution of the issue.
Government agencies in Nigeria, such as Nigerian Customs Service, the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, kept mum over the seized fund.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority had said that it did not take the issue of money laundering lightly.
But South Africa’s NPA’s spokesman, Nathi Mncube, in a response to an enquiry by our correspondent, said, “The matter is under criminal investigations by the Directorate of Priority Crimes of Investigations unit at South African Police Services.
“NPA does not comment on pending investigations and therefore cannot comment any other than providing the information contained in our media statement.”
The NPA, in a statement sent to our correspondent on Thursday, said that its asset forfeiture unit had obtained “an order in the North Gauteng High Court freezing a cash amount of US$9.34m (about R102m).”
According to the agency, the money is currently kept safe by the South African Reserve Bank.
Giving an insight into the seizure, it said, “The cash consisted of 90 blocks of $100, 000 each and was found in two black plastic suitcases.”
The NPA stated that the order freezing the money 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.”
It stated that the money was initially detained by the South African Revenue Service as it was not disclosed or declared at customs, and was above the prescribed legal limit for the amount of cash that could be brought into the country.
According to the statement, the NPA also submitted to the court that, although various explanations about the money were given to the investigating officer, these explanations were riddled with discrepancies.
The jet bearing the money, Bombardier Challenger 6000, was said to belong to the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.