POLICE say they are investigating circumstances under which a former aide of Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya smuggled 23 pieces of gold worth R11 million (US$782 712) via Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to South Africa.
National police spokesperson Paul Nyathi told The NewsHawks that local law enforcement is collaborating with the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) so they can connect the dots on what happened.
Tashinga Nyasha Masinire was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Saturday by the Hawks, South Africa’s serious organised crime investigation unit, after a scan of his luggage by the South African Revenue Service’s customs section at international arrivals.
South African police said Masinire failed to declare the gold and did not have any permit or licence authorising him to be in possession of gold and the Hawks were called in to effect the arrest and conduct further investigation.
Airports Company of Zimbabwe boss Tawanda Gusha said the investigations are being handled by the police although on Tuesday he said human tampering with airport security systems could not be ruled out.
“That one is being handled by the police. The gold passed through our airport, something must have happened. We are not ruling out human interference. But I have not yet received an update on the investigation yet,” Gusha said.
“We are however working on improving the monitoring and screening of passengers at the airports. Interpol installed facial recognition systems at the airport. We are working to ensure that those systems are monitored 24/7.”
Nyathi said police can only give an update on the investigations when they have enough information.
“I cannot give a timeframe on when the investigations will be done because we are also waiting for a full report of what happened at OR Tambo International Airport,” he said.
Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe however this week revealed that preliminary investigations and closed-circuit television images showed that Masinire walked into the airport without luggage.
This suggests that he could have been assisted by airport staff or security personnel or another accomplice.
Masinire appeared in court on Monday where he was granted R100 000 bail.
Meanwhile, The NewsHawks this week revealed that Masinire was linked to Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya, who was also nabbed at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport trying to smuggle six kilogrammes of gold worth US$360 000 to Dubai in October last year.
Rushwaya, who is out on bail, said she was no longer involved with her former driver and aide as he resigned in August last year.
A report by a global research group, the International Crisis Group, estimated that Zimbabwe is losing at least US$1.5 billion a year through the smuggling of gold, mainly to Dubai.
Kazembe has previously said Zimbabwe loses US$100 million worth of gold every month through international smuggling rings and the country’s porous borders.
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