INVESTIGATIONS have unearthed that the decomposing body found last week on a Western Global Airlines cargo plane at Harare International Airport was that of a stowaway, and that the craft was carrying about R60 billion destined for South Africa’s Reserve Bank.
Indications are that the stowayay could have died four days before his body was discovered on the plane on February 14.
The plane was impounded after it landed for refuelling and Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe staff noticed blood.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said the plane was released at midnight on Friday with the decomposed body and the billions of rand in cash.
Sources said the MD-11 trijet cargo plane, which spent five days at the airport under heavy guard, was packed with R100, R50, R20 and R10 denominations printed in Munich, Germany for the SARB as it tries to shore up that country’s flagging currency.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said postmortem results showed that the stowaway died from asphyxia (lack of oxygen), meaning he died after hiding on the craft.
The autopsy, she said, also indicated that the body was already being attacked by maggots, indicating he may have been dead for four days before discovery.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba confirmed that the plane was released early Saturday morning after security services, Foreign Affairs and Immigration officials had cleared it.
“There were no external or internal injuries to the body which means that there was no likelihood of foul play or murder. The fact that he had no internal or external injuries also shows that he got on the plane alive but later died of asphyxia,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba said. She said the ZRP had sent a notice to Interpol to trace the stowaway’s nationality in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Uganda, Belgium and Germany because the Florida-based Western Global Airlines plane passed through these countries before it landed in Zimbabwe.
The man’s fingerprints were sent to the same countries.
Officials at the airport who cannot be named for professional reasons told The Sunday Mail that the stowaway had unkempt hair, a dirty t-shirt, trousers held up by a piece of cloth improvised as a belt, and worn out slippers. Western Global Airlines cargo aircraft crew requested for landing authority in Zimbabwe after they had failed to secure landing instructions at King Tshaka Airport, Durban from their company.
The police spokesperson said Zimbabwe allowed the plane to land in line with provisions of the Convention on International Civil Aviation which provides that member states can render assistance to distressed international air services.
“The cargo plane itinerary indicates that its original departure place was Liege Belgium on 11 February 2016 and it made a stopover in Abidjan Ivory Coast, on the same day. 12 February 2016 Abuja Nigeria, Intebbe Uganda then 13 February 2016 to Liege Belgium and later Munich Germany where they picked up their consignment meant for the Reserve Bank of South Africa,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
The plane crew – two Americans, a Pakistani and a South African – spent the past week at a five-star hotel in the city centre while SARB officials were “sleeping on the plane” as Zimbabwean security agents stood guard outside.
In 2004, Zimbabwe aviation authorities impounded a plane with 64 mercenaries led by Simon Mann on board as they planned to who to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea.