Saturday, August 19, 2023

T7WSS gold scandal: The mystery of the six in Zambia’s jet

There is no doubt that many people in Cairo are now aware of the importance of open-source intelligence (OSINT), at least in the past 72 hours following the unfolding of the private jet that was busted in Zambia and its interesting connections to Egypt.

The Zambian guards guarding the T7WSS at Kenneth Kenuda International  On Thursday "DEC"
The Zambian guards guarding the T7WSS at Kenneth Kenuda International 
On Thursday "DEC"

On Friday, in the latest developments concerning the incident of Zambia’s jet, as it is known in Egypt, or the gold scandal, as it is known in Zambia, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema asserted at a press briefing that no one is above the law and that "there are no sacred cows in this case."

Hichilema told reporters that everyone involved in the "gold scam" unearthed at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport will be arrested and prosecuted, describing what happened as "criminal."

Back in Cairo, there has been no official reaction or comment about the issue, despite the fact that six Egyptian nationals are detained in Lusaka.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met his Zambian counterpart President Hakainde Hichilema in June on the sidelines of the 22nd Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

It was the first visit for el-Sisi to Lusaka. Later that month, Hichilema made headlines in Cairo with his "historic" debt deal, which earned him a lot of admiration from many Egyptians, despite the fact that they only knew him as "The Zambian President."

According to the latest news from Lusaka, the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) made a new round of arrests of Zambian suspects in connection with the case.

Currently, there are a total of 14 individuals detained pending investigation, including nine foreigners and five Zambians. The nine foreigners include six Egyptian citizens.

Already four Zambian suspects appeared before the Lusaka Magistrate Court on Thursday on charges of corruption: Shadreck Kasanda, Patrick Kawanu, Mulungu Diagamo, and Jim Belemu.

The nine foreigners did not appear in court because they were allegedly sick.

There are very interesting facts about the Zambian suspects.

Shadreck Kasanda has a previous record of gold scamming. In 2017, he was arrested in South Africa for a gold scam involving a South African business.

According to the Zambian Whistleblower website, Mulungu Diagamo was a former employee of one of the companies that President Hichilema headed.

He is also a prominent member of the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND).

Patrick Kawanu was the pilot of the King Air B190.

The two aircraft, including the private jet T7WSS, are still in the custody of the DEC.

They will not be released without the explicit clearance of DEC Director General Nason Banda, according to his own statements to journalists at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on Thursday.

Banda held a press conference there where he showed the two aircraft, including the T7WSS, to journalists.

T7WSS on the tail of the private jet at Kenneth Kaunda International airport "DEC"
T7WSS on the tail of the private jet at Kenneth Kaunada International Airport

The tail of the private jet proved that it was T7WSS, not T7WW as the DEC's statement first claimed.

The money is currently at Zambia's Central Bank.

There is very interesting information I came across in Zambian media that I have not been able to confirm. It says that either the T7WSS or KingAir B120 was parked at the Presidential Pavilion at the airport.

Perhaps President Hichilema had to address the matter because of this and because the suspect turned out to be a former employee of his.

Who is Who : The Five Egyptians detained in Zambia 

There is less interest in Cairo in the fast-paced developments in Lusaka than in the identities of the six Egyptians and the owner of T7WSS.

On Thursday, the Egyptian fact-finding platform Matsda2sh published the names of five of the six Egyptians detained in Lusaka after obtaining a legal memo from the law firm hired to defend them to the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC).

Matsad2sh paid a heavy price for that as its Cairo-based journalist Karim Asaad was arrested Saturday.

The names of the five Egyptians according to the memo are Michael Adel Michel Botros, Walid Refat Fahimi Bortos Abdel Sayed, Yasser Mokhtar Abdel Ghafor El-Shishtawy, Mounir Shaker Gerges Awad, and Mohamed Abdel Hak Mohamed Gouda.

The law firm demanded the immediate release of the five Egyptians, arguing that some of the procedures taken by the DEC to seize, search, and detain the occupants of the plane were illegal, including the initial detention of the occupants without charging them with any crime.

The law firm also threatened to take legal action against the DEC to investigate the reason for the continued detention of its clients without legal basis.

Matsda2sh asked its followers to send more information about the detained Egyptians.

There are more than 104 million Egyptians living in North Africa, but for some reason, it is possible to find out who someone is within 72 hours if you have their full name and people who are willing to help.

On Friday, it was revealed that a British law firm is also involved in the case. It is not clear if this is the same law firm that presented the memo.

Egyptian Independent News website Mada Masr was also able to confirm the identities of the five Egyptians after obtaining the T7WSS flight data document. The document showed that Cairo was not a transit stop and that the plane, T7WSS, departed from Cairo International Airport at 10:30 AM on Sunday, August 13, 2023.

The plane departed from Gate 4, which is reserved for VIPs, under the supervision of Tiger Aviation Ground Services. The flight's captain was Ali Al-Safi and the first officer was David de la Cruz. There was also one flight attendant, who is a woman.

There is an unconfirmed theory that the sixth Egyptian is Captain Ali Al-Safi. That Spanish national detained is the first officer, David de la Cruz. I can't find any information about the flight attendant.

There is still a mystery about the identity of the sixth Egypt who is widely believed to be a very recent prominent Egyptian businessman but so far it is more of circumstantial evidence. It turned out that that controversial businessman and his young son were among the frequent customers of the T7WSS.  

According to the flight document, the plane should have returned to Cairo early Monday.

On Friday, Matsda3sh proved how Egyptians can quickly identify someone just by their name. According to the findings, the five include two military personnel and one police officer, whose current employment status is unknown.

Needless to say, I don't think they'll be in service after this. They went on the trip as protection I believe. We're talking about USD 5.7 million in cash.

The other two interesting names are Mounir Shaker and Michael Adel Michel, the goldsmiths. Yes, they are both goldsmiths.

Shaker is a prominent Nile Delta goldsmith who owns a gold factory with several showrooms in Egypt.

Michael Adel Michel is quite interesting because he is not your typical Nile Delta goldsmith. Michel is also a military consultant, film producer, and CEO of a Doha-based construction company with no projects in the Gulf.

My only theory now is that the five detained Egyptians from Egypt came to Zambia to buy gold that turned out to be fake, and someone tipped off the DEC.

It is no secret that there is a gold rush in Egypt as the Egyptian pound is on the verge of losing more of its value against the US dollar.

According to the latest statement issued by the World Gold Council (WGC) earlier in August, the demand for gold bars and coins in Egypt surged by more than 300% on a yearly basis to over 10 tons in Q2 2023.

The total demand for gold in Egypt for the first half of 2023 alone is close to 2022's annual total.

My theory is that the two Egyptian goldsmiths among the detainees, along with the military personnel with weapons, went to Zambia to illegally buy gold that was cheaper than the gold in Egypt or the Middle East. However, their plan backfired.

Not only were they scammed, but they are also currently detained.

This theory is just a theory. I am not here speaking about the owner or the Private jet or the interesting relations the detainees turned out to have but rather what they were doing in Zambia. 

There are other theories going viral in Egypt.

With the help of Google's AI Bard, I learned that it is illegal to carry a firearm without a permit in Zambia. The permit must be issued by the Zambia Police Service.

If you are caught carrying a firearm without a permit, you could be fined up to 10,000 Zambian kwacha (about $1,200) or imprisoned for up to two years, or both.

It is also illegal to carry a firearm on a private jet in Zambia. The Civil Aviation Act of Zambia prohibits the carriage of firearms on aircraft without the permission of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zambia.

If you are caught carrying a firearm on a private jet in Zambia, you could be fined up to 50,000 Zambian kwacha (about $6,000) or imprisoned for up to five years, or both.

The merry bunch was already armed from Cairo.

Now the real mystery to me is who tipped off the DEC and for what reason.

I do not know if the tipster was Zambian or Egyptian, but they must have been aware of the implications of their actions.

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