New Zimbabwe (London)

23 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Chopper Crash Raises Security, Smuggling Worry

POLICE have raised a red flag over the possible smuggling of minerals and ivory, accusing South Africans and farmers along the country's borders of fuelling the illicit trade.

A helicopter that flew into the country illegally crashed at Doddieburn Ranch near West Nicholson early this month and the pilot allegedly buried the wreckage underground to conceal evidence of the crash.

The pilot is said to have then left for South Africa in another chopper which also flew undetected into the country to pick him up.

The buried wreckage of the chopper was only discovered this week and the security services have descended on the area amid concerns over the smuggling of either minerals or ivory.

Questions are also being asked on how foreign registered aircraft could fly in and out of the country undetected.

Appearing before a thematic committee on peace and security this week, ZRP Deputy Commissioner-General, Innocent Matibiri said South African gold smugglers were causing havoc in the country and appealed for help from to ministers and lawmakers.

"We have raised this issue with our counterparts in South Africa but I think it needs the intervention of ministers to discuss with their regional counterparts," Matibiri said.

Regarding the Gwanda chopper crash Matibiri said police suspected the aircraft was buried in an attempt to conceal evidence of gold smuggling.

"We are really worried as police over gold smuggling," he said.

"Only last week we had a helicopter crashing in Matabeleland South and by today we would have retrieved it after being buried to conceal evidence. We would want to know what really happened."

Security details and officers from Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe continue investigations into the crash and Matibiri claimed that this could be a tip of a vast gold smuggling iceberg.

Matibiri said the country was losing millions through the smuggling of minerals such as gold.

"We need to help each other to fight smuggling of gold. Recently we had gold worth over 18 Kgs that was seized at Beitbridge border," the police head said.

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