Pilot held in R20m diamond bust

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IOL news pic uncut diamond REUTERS An Israeli pilot has been accused of illegally entering Zimbabwe to smuggle rough diamonds out the country.

An Israeli pilot arrested at Harare International Airport last week was accused of illegally entering Zimbabwe as a crew member of South African Airways to smuggle nearly R20 million of rough diamonds out the country.

Shmuel Kainan Klein, 55, who uses the name Sam, appeared before magistrate Clever Tsikwa on Tuesday in Harare’s magistrate’s court and was released on bail of R38 000.

According to his lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, a Jewish resident of Zimbabwe put up the title deeds for his property in the posh Borrowdale suburb of Harare as security for Klein.

Speaking from Harare on Thursday Klein said: “I was framed but I can’t talk about this now.

“I was arrested in transit and was only on the ground for 15 minutes. I was working for an international company inspecting the crew of the aircraft which took me from Johannesburg to Harare. I have never been to Zimbabwe before.” He said he was due to catch the next SAA plane to Joburg when he was picked up.

The police said Klein was dressed in pilot’s uniform and had entered Zimbabwe without going through immigration and that more than 1 400 diamond pieces were found in his hand luggage after it was screened by X-ray machines.

Samkange said rough diamonds were found on the X-ray table at the airport.

Klein, who worked as a commercial pilot after he left the Israeli Air Force in 1978, said he was now a freelancer living in Johannesburg and Tel Aviv.

He faces charges under the Immigration Act and for being in unlawful possession of diamonds. – Daily News Foreign Service

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