Authorities have started an investigation into bags containing nearly $10 million that arrived on a plane at a Somali airport over the weekend.
Somalia security officials found the money in three unmarked bags on a Royal Jet plane at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia’s interior ministry said.
Royal Jet is a luxury airline based in the United Arab Emirates.
“The seized money is worth $9.6 million,” the minister said. “Security agencies are currently investigating where the money came from, where it was going, the individuals involved and the reason for bringing money worth this amount into the country.”
Senior security officials told Voice of America the three money bags have been placed in Somalia’s central bank for storage.
Officials said the money was seized after diplomat Mohammed Ahmed Othman Al Hammadi’s entourage tried to take it out of the airport, but security instructed them to have them scanned.
“The ambassador refused, walked back to the plane with three bags, and counterterrorism units confiscated the three bags,” one officer said.
Al Hammadi told VOA the money was not intended for the UAE embassy, but rather the ministry of defense.
“It’s for the salary of the Somali soldiers,” he said.
The seizure resulted in a standoff for hours between airport officials and UAE embassy staff.
Somalia and UAE relations have been tense since last June when Somalia decided to remain neutral in Persian Gulf political matters.
By Sommer Brokaw