The Federal Government yesterday opened diplomatic discussions with South African authorities on the seizure of $9.3m cash found on two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen.
According to reports, the money was meant for the purchase of arms on behalf of Nigerian security services. The Nigerian government has therefore insisted that the deal was legal.
The Federal Government, it was learnt, has released data and documents on the transaction process to South Africa, thereby confirming that the entire operation involving the aircraft was ‘genuine’.
As a result of the preliminary diplomatic talks which were convincing to the South African authorities, the private jet may have been released to the Nigerian government pending the conclusion of a comprehensive investigation by South Africa, Vanguard findings revealed.
The Bi-Focal diplomatic talks with South Africa were both at governmental level and exchanges by intelligence services of the two nations, Vanguard further learnt.
It was gathered that the South African Government only faulted “non-declaration” of the cash by the delegation from Nigeria. Sources also said the diplomacy covered sharing of vital security information to prove that the deal was necessary.
“Nigeria and South Africa are getting closer to diplomatic resolution of the row over the $9.3 million transaction. The two nations have opened discussions.
“The Federal Government has submitted relevant data and documents on the transaction to South Africa and insisted that the transaction was legitimate.
“It also clarified that the funds were neither laundered nor smuggled for any covert manoeuvres. No launderer will be audacious to fly into a country in a chartered jet with such huge cash.
“The technical details on security matters, which necessitated the deal had been availed South Africa for screening.
“Based on initial scrutiny of the documents, the Challenger Jet has been released pending conclusion of a full-scale investigation by South Africa,” the Vanguard source said.
Asked why South Africa impounded the cash, the source added: “There was procedural error at the airport, the team did not declare the $9.3 million contrary to the aviation and Customs laws of South Africa. So, there was an oversight on the part of the delegation that went to complete the transaction.
“Nigeria is trying to complete the formality and we are confident that the cash will be released for the purpose it was meant for.”
The source added that, “Movement of cash for strategic purchase of security equipment by intelligence services is not new; it is a global trend. The FBI, KGB, MOSSAD and others do it.”