Five Egyptians and six Zambians have taken legal action after a mysterious charter plane landed in Lusaka carrying nearly $6 million, fake gold and weapons.
The Bombardier plane was en route from Cairo, Egypt, to the airport in Lusaka, the capital of the South African state of Zambia, on August 13, but no one has yet claimed to have chartered the plane or owned the cargo there.
Local media reported that after the plane landed, a Zambian man carrying bags of fake gold was let through security and met a group of Egyptians on the plane, selling some of the goods to them. It is not clear if the Egyptian team found fake gold. A group of people on the plane reportedly bribed the Zambian police.
Zambian authorities boarded the plane on August 14, confiscated $5.7 million in cash, several handguns, 126 bullets and 127 kg of fake gold.
The Zambia Drug Enforcement and Law Enforcement Agency said 11 suspects were arrested in connection with the plane, including five Egyptians and six Zambians. Among them were a high-ranking Zambian police officer and a former Egyptian soldier.
A group of 11 people appeared in court on 28 August and were accused of “espionage” acting to “damage the security and interests of Zambia”. Officials said the plane was carrying “dangerous goods”. The suspects face up to 30 years in prison.
Officials did not disclose the number of items on the plane, for what purpose and to whom they belong. According to online aviation trackers, the aircraft is registered in the European country of San Marino but is operated by an office in Dubai that is linked to an aircraft rental service in Antwerp, Belgium.
The incident also caused a stir in Egypt. On August 19, Egyptian journalist Karim Asaad, whose site Matsda2sh has millions of followers, was attacked by plainclothes Egyptian security forces and taken away overnight.
He had previously learned of the incident and accused Egyptian officials of being involved in the smuggling of goods on the plane. The journalist also learned that the plane had recently stopped in the UAE, Israel, Egypt and Libya. Asaad was released on August 20, and the authorities did not give a reason for his arrest.
Meanwhile, Egyptian state media said the plane was privately owned and was only in transit through Cairo.
Ngoc Anh (In accordance with AFP, BBC)