A puzzling plane, grounded in Lusaka, Zambia, on August 14, has unraveled an intricate tale of shadowy flight paths, undisclosed passengers, and questionable cargo. This story was brought to light by Karim Asaad, an investigative journalist from the Egyptian fact-checking platform, Matsada2sh.
Unusual Flight Paths Raise Eyebrows
The plane’s travel logs showed unusual stops in global cities such as Dubai, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Benghazi, and Tripoli. Over a period of two years, the high-speed corporate Bombardier completed an astonishing 361 round trips, mostly to and from Cairo. Of particular interest was its travel to Benghazi and Tripoli, key locations in the ongoing Libyan conflict, within mere days of each other.
Flight data indicates the plane was registered in the microstate of San Marino. However, its operations were linked to a Dubai-based office, which in turn was connected to an aircraft rental service in Antwerp, Belgium. In a secretive move, the plane’s owner had asked FlightAware, a leading flight tracking platform, to keep their flight details off the public radar.
Diverse and Mysterious Passengers
The grounding of the plane led to the arrest of 13 individuals spanning various nationalities, including Egyptians, Zambians, Latvians, Dutch, and Spanish.
Matsada2sh’s deep dive exposed a covert network: from a high-profile Zambian tycoon, Shadrick Kasanda, known for flaunting his gold possessions, to international figures with veiled business endeavors in Europe and the Middle East. Notably, the passenger list included an Egyptian army major previously stationed at the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C., and a lieutenant from the Egyptian Ministry of Interior.
Also aboard was Michael Adel Botros, a 42-year-old Egyptian currently residing in Qatar. Botros is known as the director of Amstone International Limited, a defense technology firm with a global footprint.
Suspect Cargo Unearthed
Zambia’s Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) took the initiative to inspect the aircraft following a tip-off about potentially dangerous goods. Their search was not in vain. Along with more than $5.5 million in cash, they uncovered an arsenal that included five pistols, seven magazines, and a substantial amount of ammunition. But perhaps the most surprising discovery was the cargo that appeared to be gold. On closer inspection, these turned out to be mostly alloys of copper and zinc.
A Nation Responds
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema has taken a firm stance on the incident, ensuring that all involved will be brought to justice. As the world awaits further details, the story serves as a potent reminder of the clandestine operations that sometimes unfold far from the public eye.