The Zambian Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) intercepted an aircraft carrying five million dollars in cash and over 100kg of suspected gold at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport near the capital Lusaka on August 14, according to several sources.
Found on the plane were $5,697,700 in cash, five pistols, seven magazines, 126 rounds of ammunition, 602 pieces of suspected gold weighing 127.7 kg, and equipment for measuring gold. Later, Zambian authorities determined that the pieces were not pure gold and were in fact mixed with zinc, copper, and nickel.
The Zambian DEC announced it had arrested 10 individuals, including one Zambian, one Spanish national, one Dutch national, one Latvian national, and six Egyptian nationals for possession of dangerous goods.
DEC Director-General Nason Banda also announced that there would likely be additional Zambians implicated in the event. After further investigations, an additional four Zambians were arrested.
The mysterious plane has sparked an outcry in Egypt with many seeing it as part of an ongoing weakening of the Egyptian economy.
A case of capital flight?
Egyptian citizens speculated that it was part of international gangs' operations to move large amounts of money out of the country to businessmen situated in various foreign countries and in particular the Gulf, as reported by Al Araby.
The flight of money from Egypt has become a growing concern as many wealthy individuals seek to move money out of Egypt and keep their fortunes out of the eyes of the authorities.
Egyptian MP Samira el-Gazzar called on the government to clarify the facts of the event to citizens and open an investigation. The story has so far become the most widely circulated story on Egyptian social media, but local authorities have banned its publication by local media, with state-run media Middle East News Agency denying any state relationship to the plane.
This has been brought into doubt as photos on social media show Egyptian Interior Minister Mahmoud Tawfik standing in front of the plane during a visit to Tunisia.
The plane itself was a Global Express T7-WSS, although this was wrongly reported as T7-WW by Zambian authorities, and according to planefinder.net, the plane's previous flight had been from Amman to Cairo. The plane had also previously traveled to Dubai and Tripoli, Libya. There is still no concrete source as to where the fake gold came from.
The plane is owned by Flying Group Middle East, based out of Dubai, which is itself a subsidiary of the Antwerp-based company of the same name which charters private or shared aircraft.
The Emirati connection
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have been long-term allies since the UAE supported the overthrow of Islamist Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. According to Al-Araby, UAE intelligence played an important role in the overthrow of Morsi, this helped to build connections between current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the UAE.
These strong relations would lead to intense collaboration in the Libyan civil war, with The Guardian reporting that the two countries were heavily involved in bombing raids against Libyan militias in 2014. The collaboration is based on both countries' desire to prevent the increasing Islamist presence in Libya in particular and increasingly Islamism in general.
Both countries backed Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army based in Tobruk against the internationally recognized government the Tripoli-based General National Accord. It was Haftar's failure to take Tripoli which initiated the current ceasefire in the Libyan civil war.