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Egypt: Army officer was on plane seized in Zambia, say reports

Five Egyptian nationals who were aboard a private plane carrying millions in cash, gold, and weapons, open-source investigations claim
The gold, cash, and weapons were seized at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, Zambia (AFP)

An Egyptian army major was reportedly aboard a private plane carrying millions of dollars in cash, gold, and weapons, that was seized by Zambian authorities earlier this week, open-source investigations have alleged. 

The names of five Egyptians aboard the chartered plane were revealed in a leaked letter apparently sent by their lawyers to Nason Banda, the director general of Zambia’s Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC). 

The letter states that lawyers are acting on behalf of the named individuals and that they have been held in custody since 13 August.

One of the individuals mentioned in the letter reportedly worked as an assistant military attache with the title of a major at the Egyptian embassy in Washington in 2011 and 2012, according to US State Department archives.

Another person named in the letter was a gold trader who owns several jewellery stores in Egypt.

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Middle East Eye contacted the Egyptian embassy in Washington for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

The private plane was flown to Zambia's capital Lusaka from Cairo and seized by Zambian authorities on Tuesday.

It was found to contain over $5.69m in cash, 602 suspected gold bars, and five handguns with 126 rounds of ammunition.

Ten people aboard the plane - six Egyptians, a Dutchman, a Spaniard, a Latvian, and a Zambian citizen - were arrested pending further investigation. 

Zambia seizes Egyptian plane carrying millions in cash, gold and weapons
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Banda told reporters the plane was supposed to fly back to Egypt after carrying out some business deals in Zambia.  

According to the purported letter sent by Eric Silwamba, Jalasi & Linyama Legal Practitioners - a Zambia-based law firm - to the DEC, the plane passengers were still in custody as of Thursday. 

MEE couldn't independently verify the authenticity of the letter. 

Eric Silwamba, Jalasi & Linyama Legal Practitioners did not respond to MEE's request for comment by the time of publication.

Egyptian authorities have not officially commented on the Zambian operation and Egyptian media outlets, which initially reported on the seizure, have since deleted the stories.

However, an unnamed Egyptian source told the state news agency the plane was privately owned and had "passed all safety and security inspections per the highest standards applied at all Egyptian airports".

The source also added that "the plane does not carry Egyptian nationality in the first place".

There are no further details on the origins of the plane. 

According to the Zambian Observer website, there may have been at least four other planes at the airport that may have been related to the confiscated plane.  

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