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U.S. plane impounded in Zimbabwe; body and cash found on board

HARARE, Zimbabwe >> Authorities Zimbabwe aviation impounded a U.S.-registered cargo jet, a senior official said Monday, with a dead body and millions of South African rand reportedly on board.

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe general manager David Chawota confirmed a plane registered with Western Global Airlines was impounded at Harare International Airport on Sunday. A web site says Western Global Airlines is based in Estero, Florida.

“The case is now in the hands of the state. It involves nationals and property of other countries so I am no longer qualified to give much detail but yes we impounded the plane on Sunday,” Chawota told The Associated Press.

“The crew requested to land for refueling but our ground-handling personnel discovered blood leaks and became suspicious. Talk to the police for more details,” he said by telephone, refusing to give details about the crew or the cargo.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she did not have the facts of the case yet.

State-run Herald newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, reported on Monday that the MD-11 trijet was traveling from Germany to South Africa “stashed with millions of rands.” At today’s exchange rate, 1 million rand is worth $62,500.

The crew, according to the Herald, includes two Americans, a South African and a Pakistani. The U.S. Embassy said it does not yet have a comment on the matter. Several U.S. embassy vehicles were seen at the airport Monday morning.

In 2004, Harare airport authorities impounded a plane with 64 people on board, who were arrested on accusations that they had been on their way to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea.

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