South Africa has described Nigeria’s explanations on the $9.3m cash seized from two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen in a chartered private jet, as flawed with discrepancies.
The money, which was meant for the procuring of arms for the Nigerian intelligence services was intercepted in South Africa earlier in the week.
The Federal Government, in a statement by PRNigeria, an agency that releases statements for the military, police and other security agencies said “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 South African prosecution agency, in a statement sent to online news platform, Premium Times, however said “Although various explanations about the money were given to the investigating officer, these explanations were flawed and riddled with discrepancies.
Already, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa, NPA, has obtained a court order to freeze the money.
The NPA, in a statement said that the manner in which the money was brought into the country breached the country’s laws that deal with the transfer of foreign exchange of such proportion.
“The money was initially detained by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) as it was neither disclosed nor declared at Customs, and was above the prescribed legal limit for the amount of cash that may be brought into the country,” it said in a statement.
Investigators also cast serious doubt on the Nigerian government’s explanation that the money was meant for the procurement of arms and that it has provided documents and receipts to back its legitimacy, raising serious concern that suspects might have been in the process of laundering the money before it was intercepted.
The NPA said its investigation shows that Tier One Services Group, the firm Nigerian government claimed it wanted to procure the arms from, is not authorised to sell or rent military hardware.
“In the court papers, the NPA submitted evidence that Tier One is not registered with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee and is thus not authorised to enter into any agreements regarding the sale and/or rental of military equipment,” the statement read.
Tier One has apparently issued an invoice to a Cyprus-based company, ESD International Group Ltd, ESD, in respect of the procurement of armaments and helicopters to be delivered to Nigeria.However, South African investigators said the time the invoice was prepared and the time the money was brought in threw up some serious issues of its true intent.
The money was ferried to South Africa less than a week from the date the invoice was prepared (September 8, 2014).The involvement of a Cyprus-based company also heightens the suspicion that this may be a case of classical money laundering.The NPA added that the transaction did not follow normal procedure in the procurement of the kind of equipment it was alleged to have been meant for.