On Monday, a senior official with the Zimbabwean aviation authorities announced that they had impounded a U.S.-registered cargo jet heading for South after a dead body and millions of South African rand were found on board the vessel.
David Chawota, General Manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe advised by phone that the plane belonged to Western Global Airlines which is based in Estero, Florida. The plane first came to the attention of the authorities when it landed in Harare for refueling at Harare International Airport and the ground handling staff at the airport noticed blood dripping from the plane. The airline also advised that the cargo on the plane was ordered from Germany and belonged to the South African Reserve Bank. The dead body was likely that of a stowaway.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that a police officer spoke with them on the condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to discuss the details of the investigation, advised that the crew was unaware that someone else had been on the plane. The news site also mentioned that from photographic evidence on social media it appears that the dead person had his arm severed when he snuck in to the plane’s landing gear and it contracted. The ground crew became suspicious when they spotted the blood splatter from that event on the plane’s fuselage. The body was found suspended from the plane. The plane was then impounded and the dead body taken to pathologists.
The Associated Press received an email response from Western Global Airlines which advised that the identity of the dead person was still unknown.
“The aircraft is leased to Network Airline Management, a longtime customer based in the UK, and the shipment consignee was the South African Reserve Bank. This particular flight was from Germany to South Africa, we are told for the South African government. During a routine fuel stop in Zimbabwe, a body was found in the lower compartment. The body is presumed to be a stowaway who may have entered the airplane during a previous stop. The situation is currently under review.
South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Vusi Mavimbela, was called in and confirmed the owner of the cargo as well as the plane’s origin point and destination. He also went on to divulge that of the six persons being questioned by the Zimbabwean authorities two of them are South African nationals and that they were employees of the Reserve Bank of South Africa. The other crew members are said to be a mixture of Americans and Pakistanis.
The ambassadors of South Africa, USA, Germany and Pakistan were all summoned by the foreign affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi for an emergency meeting over the issue.
Pradeep Maharaj, the currency cluster group executive of the Reserve Bank of South Africa also issued a statement that the dead body was a stowaway and that the bank was making efforts to work with authorities to ensure that the money being transported was released and allowed to continue its journey to South Africa immediately.
Though neither the ambassador nor the bank officials would confirm the amount of money that was found on the plane the New York Daily News wrote that The Herald, Zimbabwe’s state-run newspaper, reported that the “millions of rands” the MD11 trijet cargo plane was carrying would amount to about $62,500 for 1 million rand at the current exchange rate.
The Zimbabwean civil aviation authorities have not impounded a foreign plane since 2004 when they intercepted 64 mercenaries at Harare Airport en route to Equtorial Guinea to stage a coup. Investigations are still being carried out to gain all the facts involved in this case.
[Photo by of Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP Images]