Cash-for-arms: South Africa promises to return $15m to Nigeria

By The Citizen

South Africa has promised to return the $15 million arms deal money it earlier seized from Nigeria.

The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Myakayaka Manzini, who featured in a programme on  African International Television, AIT, 'Matters Arising', yesterday, said the process of refunding the money was already on.

He said: 'Both countries have decided on a political solution to the issue. Nigeria is a big ally and a brother.'

According to Manzini, South Africa will do everything to maintain cordial relations with Nigeria and would not do anything to hurt her national interests.

He added that South Africa had been selling arms to Nigeria and that his country was prepared to sell arms to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram.

The envoy, however, did not give the timeline when the seized money will be returned but assured that it will be very soon.

South African authorities had seized US$5.7 million arms money from Nigeria, just three weeks after another $9.3 million cash reportedly smuggled by two Nigerians and an Israeli for arms purchase from the country was confiscated, bringing the total amount seized to $15 million (about N2 billion).

The private jet conveying the $9.3 million stashed in three suitcases had landed at Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg, on September 5. The South Africa Revenue Service, SARS, said customs officers became suspicious when the passengers' luggage were unloaded and put through the scanners.

The National Prosecuting Authority, NPA, in South Africa said there was an invoice for helicopters and armaments intended to be used in Nigeria.

The second transaction, was between Cerberus Risk Solutions, an arms broker in Cape Town, and Societe D'Equipments Internationaux, said to be a Nigerian company based in Abuja.

It was gathered that the deal, however,  collapsed after Cerberus which had earlier received from Nigeria R60 million (N1.02 billion) in its account at Standard Bank, tried to repay the money as it could not resolve its registration formalities with the South African authorities.

Cerberus was previously registered as a broker with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), but the registration expired in May this year.

The marketing and contracting permits also expired at the same time. The company has since applied for re-registration, but the application lay in the NCACC's mailbox for more than two months.

It was said that an alleged attempt by Cerberus to pay the money back to the Nigerian company, alerted bank officials who became suspicious.

The Nigerian government, however, argued that both transactions were legitimate and there was nothing shady in the arms deal. - Vanguard.