A private plane leaving Cairo was seized at Lusaka airport, loaded with millions in cash and counterfeit gold that no one wants to claim. An investigation led to the arrest of several Egyptians and Zambians.
Nearly six million dollars in cash, gold bars (which turned out to be fake), pistols and ammunition are desperately seeking owners. Found on August 14 at Lusaka airport (Zambia) aboard a private jet leaving Cairo, the mysterious loot has since been the subject of a host of rumors and speculation. Because no one, anywhere, admits to having rented the plane or owning its contents. Money so dirty that no one dares to claim it.
The first official information on the passengers of the flight began to filter only this week. Zambian authorities announced that five Egyptian nationals and one Zambian had been arrested on board the plane. Accused of espionage, they were released this Friday, September 1 by the court, after the prosecutor dropped the espionage charges, according to the Reuters agency.
Three other European passengers on the flight, a Lithuanian, a Spaniard and a Dutchman, were also arrested by the Zambian drug control commission, without specific charges having yet been served on them. Five Zambian nationals, arrested for entering a prohibited area of the airport, remain detained.
In Egypt, the affair was revealed by a whistleblower from the Egyptian fact-checking site Matsadaksh (Don’t Believe) who on August 18 accused several officers and senior officials of the Egyptian security services of being involved in the suspicious theft. The day after publication, journalist Karim Assaad disappeared after security forces visited his home. But he was released two days later, following mobilization by the Egyptian journalists’ union and protests on social networks.
The Egyptian authorities, who claim that the plane only made a stopover in Cairo, are said to have issued instructions to the country’s controlled media not to discuss the affair. This does not prevent the rare independent journalists and Egyptian social networks from multiplying revelations, rumors and comments on what they clearly suspect of being a corruption scandal involving the country’s ruling elite.
Thus, the very serious alternative site Mada Masr published the names of five Egyptians arrested at Lusaka airport and accused of espionage. He further indicated that air navigation data confirmed that the plane had indeed departed from Cairo airport, but that its owner was anonymous. The people identified would be linked, some to the Egyptian army, others to gold traffickers.
Counterfeit gold bars
On the Zambian side, media revealed that after the plane landed, a Zambian citizen, loaded with bags of gold-like bars, was allowed through airport security to go onto the tarmac and board the aircraft. Access negotiated in exchange for bribes, with the aim of “selling” the contents of his bags to the passengers of the flight. According to other information published on site, several Zambian officials, who also boarded the plane after it landed, received $200,000 each from the Egyptians to let the plane take off again without anyone being arrested.
But when the cash exchanges were spotted, another Zambian security team reportedly came on board to arrest the passengers and seize the phenomenal cargo. It was then that it turned out that not all that glitters is gold: the ingots were made from a mixture of zinc, copper, nickel and tin. Egyptian buyers were set to fall victim to a counterfeit gold scam.
Zambian president commits to transparency
As more or less verified information continues to circulate, the mystery of the anonymous theft of millions thickens. In addition to conjectures and rumors about a money laundering, trafficking or tax evasion operation, questions and analyzes are emerging. The possibility that the plane intercepted in Lusaka is not the first of its kind is mentioned by Egyptian analysts. Some recall that the fear of an economic collapse of the regime of dictator Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi is pushing businessmen and senior Egyptian officials to take their money out of the country.
The President of Zambia has publicly committed to ensuring that the investigation is completed in full transparency and that all suspects are brought to justice. While waiting for the next episode, Netflix screenwriters may already be hard at work.