Mozam­bi­can nabbed with R18m is jailed

Told Swazi cops he was off to Dubai

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - PAUL FAUVET and PETER FABRICIUS

MA­PUTO and Jo­han­nes­burg: A Mozam­bi­can busi­ness­man ar­rested in Swazi­land in pos­ses­sion of R18 mil­lion is now back in Ma­puto – but in jail.

Momed Khalid Ay­oob was de­tained at Mat­sapa air­port in Swazi­land on De­cem­ber 1. When Swazi po­lice opened his bags, they found the money and charged him un­der Swazi cus­toms and ex­change leg­is­la­tion.

At a court hear­ing, Ay­oob told the judge the money con­sisted of pay­ments from clients of his var­i­ous busi­nesses in Ma­puto. He said he was tak­ing the money to Dubai to buy goods and ve­hi­cles.

How­ever, pur­chases in Mozam­bique are nor mally made in the Mozam­bi­can cur­rency, the met­i­cal, and not in rands. No Mozam­bi­can bank would have agreed to sell Ay­oob R18m in hard cash.

Ay­oob made no at­tempt to ex­plain why he pre­ferred to carry large sums of money for thou­sands of kilo­me­tres rather than make a le­git­i­mate bank trans­fer.

Af­ter a week in de­ten­tion, a Swazi court re­leased Ay­oob on bail of R400 000. He tried to re­turn to Mozam­bique over­land on Mon­day – but cus­toms of­fi­cials and mem­bers of the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Po­lice (PIC) were wait­ing for him at the Goba fron­tier post, and he was taken to a Ma­puto prison, while in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tinue.

Even if Ay­oob can prove the money came from a le­git­i­mate source, he should still face crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings for smug­gling it out of the coun­try. Un­der Mozam­bi­can ex­change reg­u­la­tion, a max­i­mum of $5 000 (R34 270) or the equiv­a­lent in other cur­ren­cies) may be taken out of the coun­try with­out be­ing de­clared.

Ay­oob once owned a for­eign ex­change bureau in Ma­puto, Real Cam­bios – but the Bank of Mozam­bique closed it down for ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in 2007.

The Bank of Mozam­bique is hop­ing that the Swazi au­thor­i­ties will now re­turn the R1m to Mozam­bique where, un­less Ay­oob can prove that he ob­tained it le­git­i­mately, it will re­vert to the Mozam­bi­can state.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Di­rec­tor of the Mozam­bi­can Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Po­lice, Car­los Come, Ay­oob has no crim­i­nal record in Mozam­bique. How­ever, PIC is re­quest­ing in­for­ma­tion about any past of­fences from coun­tries he has known to have vis­ited, such as South Africa, Swazi­land and Por­tu­gal.

The Mozam­bi­can press has pre­vi­ously re­ported that Ay­oob was ar­rested in Por­tu­gal on drugs charges in 1987, but es­caped to Mozam­bique.

In 2002, his brother, Mac­sud Ay­oob, was caught in Ma­puto In­ter­na­tional Air­port, car­ry­ing over a $1 mil­lion in ban­knotes. Again the des­ti­na­tion was Dubai.

The Ay­oobs are men­tioned in one of a con­tro­ver­sial se­ries of con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments sent from the US em­bassy in Ma­puto to Washington in Jan­uary this year which also quoted an anony­mous Ma­puto busi­ness­man as telling the em­bassy that Mozam­bi­can Pres­i­dent Ar­mando Gue­buza was deeply in­volved in cor­rup­tion and that drug-traf­fick­ing and money-laun­der­ing were rife in the coun­try.

In one of the doc­u­ments, pub­lished by Wik­iLeaks, the em­bassy says that “Mozam­bique has been called the sec­ond most ac­tive nar­cotics tran­sit point in Africa af­ter Guinea Bis­sau.

The rul­ing Fre­limo party has not shown much se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal will to com­bat nar­co­traf­fick­ing.

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