Zambia seizes plane with $5.7M cash, weapons

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Drug Enforcement Commission says 10 people detained, money placed in Bank of Zambia

Authorities in Zambia on Tuesday announced the seizure of a private plane carrying $5.7 million in cash, 602 pieces of suspected gold bars, and five pistols with 126 rounds of ammunition. Ten people, including a Zambian, six Egyptians, a Dutch, a Spaniard, and a Latvian, have since been detained by the commission for further investigations.

Drug Enforcement Commission’s Director General Nason Banda said at a press conference in the capital Lusaka that the chartered aircraft, which flew from Cairo, Egypt, carrying “dangerous goods,” landed at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka at around 7 p.m. local time (1700GMT) on Monday.

“Acting on this information, we together with officers from various law enforcement agencies conducted an operation which resulted in the seizure of $5.7 million, five pistols, seven magazines (for ammunition loading), 126 rounds of ammunition, 602 pieces of gold weighing 127.2 kilograms (280 pounds) and gold measuring equipment,” Banda explained. He said the plane on which the items were found and another aircraft belonging to a local airline had been seized. Banda said the money had been placed in the safe custody of the Bank of Zambia as investigations into the matter continued.

However, Mines and Minerals Development Minister Paul Kabuswe said at a late Tuesday press conference that 602 pieces of suspected gold discovered from a seized private plane are other metals in the gold coating. The metals discovered in four boxes contained 58 to 61% copper, 38 to 41% zinc, and trace amounts of tin, osmium, and nickel, all of which were less than 0.8%, he added. “Ministry experts joined the DEC (Drug Enforcement Commission) and spent nearly five hours screening the metals. The ministry sent a delegation made up of gemologists, metallurgists, and geological survey officials to ensure a thorough investigation. So the findings have been shared with the law enforcement agency in this case, DEC,” Kabuswe said. Lubinda Linyama, an attorney for the 10 detained accused, said his clients are waiting to see the outcome of the investigation before deciding whether to challenge the case.