THE State says Egyptian national involved in the thwarted gold scam at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport last August Micheal Adel Michel Botros made an undertaking to surrender his US$5 million, firearms and the Jet as penalty for wrongdoing.
Drug Enforcement assistant commissioner Martin Chitamba says Botros is not a victim of a scam as he alleges as he chose to voluntarily engage in illegal gold transactions to avoid laid down procedure in procuring minerals when he illegaly traded in gold from the airport.
In this matter the Director of Public Prosecutions has moved a motion before the Economic and Financial Crimes Court to have Global Express T7-WSS JET, money, fire arm and minerals which it contained, confiscated on reasons that the same were tainted for having been used to commit a crime.
The DPP has cited World Aviation Sinai International, Mountains Limited, IBIS Air (PTY) Limited and Micheal Adel Michel Botros as interested parties in the matter.
In reply to affidavits in opposition to affidavit in support of notice of motion by the managers of the jet, its owner and client Botros, the State says the Egyptian national engaged in illegal activities with Zambian nationals which led to the seizure of the aircraft.
Chitamba said the actions of the DPP can in no way said to be either unreasonable or unjustifiable as the basis of the application is that the property is tainted.
He explained that in non conviction based forfeiture applications one does not need to be charged for a criminal offence, neither is the non-conviction based forfeiture being used as an alternative to criminal proceedings.
Chitamba denied the claims by Botros that the firearms exited Egypt with authorization.
He indicated that the aircraft in question was denied clearance by Zambia Airforce (ZAF) Air Traffic Liaison unit to pave way for investigation as the joint operations team found prohibited articles on board.
Chitamba disclosed that Botros surrendered the Jet and all items on board as penance for engaging in illegal activities and did not sign the undertaking under duress neither was his liberty threatened nor his safety in the country.
“The undertaking was voluntarily drafted by the interested party acknowledging that he had committed offences, breaches and because of that illegality, they willingly surrendered the money, aircraft and the firearms,”Chitamba said.
He said Botros did not trade his freedom to testify against Kasanda neither was he requested nor encouraged to lodge a complaint with the DEC or the police over the alleged aggravated robbery.
The investigations officer stated that Botros claimed that his life was in danger and was kept in State controlled facilities at his request after the espionage case was discontinued.
Chitamba said the DPP commenced the action before the EFCC and served Botros the documents before he left the country.
And in responding to IBIS Air and owner of the jet Ibrahim Hassan, Chitamba said the seizure of the jet was not irregular as it is property liable for seizure and forfeiture.
He said National Airport Corporation Limited offered ground handling services of the jet following an application that was initiated by Ibis Air and actualised by Mix Jet.
“The interested party did not declared accurate information in the application,” Chitamba said.
He argued that the motion is not based on hearsay but on information and knowledge gained in his capacity as the investigations officer.
“The statement by Dyson Hanzala that the $11, 000, 000 five pistols with 126 rounds of ammunition, 11 pistol magazines were not declared to customs officials by Botros and there is no dispute that the plane was used to carry the said money and firearms,”Chitamba said
“Botros had a chance to declare the U$5 million, guns, ammunition and magazines on board the jet especially that he stated he was coming to Zambia to buy gold.”
He said Botros was on Zambian soil and it was necessary for him to declare the items on board and if the money was genuinely meant for a business transaction he would have genuinely declared it as part of cargo but it was declared as no cargo due to ill motive.
Chitamba stated that The managers of the plane having been told that there was not going to be cargo on board had an obligation to ensure that no cargo was loaded on the aircraft as declared by Botros in as much as it was not their duty to know the business he was engaged in.
“Ibis Air allowed cargo to be loaded on the plane and acted on behalf of the owner of the jet therefore they cannot turn against Botros claiming they have no connection with his wrongdoing,” he argued.
“The jet is am instrumentality that was used in the commission of the offence. The flight plan shows that a false declaration was made that there was no cargo on the plane.”
Chitama insisted that Botros freely made an undertaking surrendering the jet, US$5, 697, 700 and all other items seized by DEC to the Zambian government.
Chitamba further stated that it would be grave injustice to give back the property as it would send a very wrong message to would be offenders that crime does pay.
“The economic advantage derived from the commission of crimes will continue to benefit the few elite at the expense of national security, interest of the public and the economy,” said Chitamba.
By Mwaka Ndawa
Kalemba January 16, 2023.