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Impounded plane: SA millions 'safe'

Durban - The decomposed body of a man fell from an external cabin on a plane carrying billions of rands when it landed at Harare last Sunday, raising questions.

The cargo plane was impounded at Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe after a corpse was found on board. Picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP. Credit: AP

The US freighter plane, en route to Durban with 57 tons in currency was grounded in Harare when the body was found during refuelling.

The currency has since been offloaded from the stranded plane, but authorities are no closer to finding out who the dead man is.

Late on Saturday the South African Reserve Bank said the money had since arrived in the country and was in its custody.

The Reserve Bank said it had co-operated with Zimbabwean and South African authorities in securing the release of the consignment.

A reserve US crew is understood to be in Harare, awaiting clearance to fly to Durban.

Several people at King Shaka International Airport on Saturday could not confirm whether the plane was expected to land there.

The mystery started last Sunday when the MD11 freighter was opened after it made an emergency landing at Harare International Airport.

Ground staff had noticed what looked like blood coming out of the emergency and navigation access door. When it was opened, the body fell out of the small cabin high up the side of the aircraft.

It was assumed the dead man on the aircraft was a stowaway, possibly African.

The body, with no identification, was left hanging halfway out of the plane for several hours until it was removed by police.

Police later said an autopsy would be carried out on the decomposing corpse.

But the Aviation Herald reported online that the blood smears had been noticed in Munich by a plane spotter who took a photograph.

It reports that ground staff at Munich Airport also noticed the blood stains, but took no action, putting it down to a bird strike.

The Aviation Herald quoted Western Global Airlines as saying: “During a routine fuel stop in Zimbabwe, a body was found in the lower compartment. It is presumed to be of a stowaway who may have entered the aircraft during a previous stop. The situation is under review.”

Aviation enthusiasts speculated online that it was likely the stowaway would have been able to get in from the outside but might have been crushed during gear retraction.

Late on Friday security officials surrounded the aircraft, which had been parked near the runway since it landed, and moved it to aircraft ground services where its interior was being dismantled.

This information, from insiders in aviation circles, has not yet been released to the public until now.

The US freighter crew, a captain, co-pilot, reserve pilot, engineer and loading officer were taken away and were understood to be staying, under guard, in a city centre hotel.

It is not clear whether they are still in Zimbabwe.

The Reserve Bank reiterated that the process of printing South African currency abroad, and transporting it, was part of currency operations and business contingency planning.

“To achieve this and ensure that contingency plans are robust and regularly tested, a small percentage of the Reserve Bank’s annual bank-note order is outsourced to credible and vetted international printing companies.

“The bulk of South African currency is produced at its wholly owned subsidiary, the South African Banknote Company,” it said.

Independent Foreign Service and Sunday Tribune

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