A Gulfstream jet seized by Congolese authorities suspected of being used to smuggle gold from rebel-controlled strongholds is apparently owned by a North Texas aviation firm owned by Southlake philanthropist David Disiere, records show.
Disiere did not return phone calls to his house in Southlake today. It’s unclear whether he was leasing the plane to someone else or had any knowledge of the African incident.
Disiere made headlines last year when he pulled funding for a popular after school program for disadvantaged kids. In 2000, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony in connection with the corruption investigation of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.
The plane’s passengers — including at least one American — have also been detained by Congolese authorities, according to wire reports.
According to the Associated Press:
Authorities in eastern Congo seized millions of U.S. dollars and gold and arrested four foreigners including an American suspected of gold-smuggling, an official said Tuesday.Provincial Governor Julien Paluku said the arrests were made Thursday after a car chase from the Goma airport.
Among those detained were two Nigerians, a Frenchman and an American who arrived aboard a Nigerian aircraft on Thursday.
Paluku said the suspects had arrived in Goma with a large sum of money to buy gold.
“This plane, which had on board four businessmen: an American, a Frenchman and two Nigerians, was sent from Abuja with the special mission of buying gold,” he said.
The AP report continues:
The government banned mining and mineral trade in eastern Congo in September, trying to regularize an industry controlled by armed groups including former rebels in the national army.Brig. Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, a former commander of a Tutsi-led rebellion in eastern Congo in 2008, was sent in September to enforce a government mining ban. Ntaganda told The Associated Press that his soldiers helped catch the suspects.
“My men collaborated with the security services to stop them,” he said.
In response to allegations he’d heard that he was involved, Ntaganda said: “Never; I am a soldier, I am not a businesssman and furthermore, mining activities are prohibited on our premises.”
Government spokesman Lambert Mende confirmed the arrests, but did not give more details.
“The Congolese government is determined to put an end to the mafia in the east of the country,” he said.
Look for more updates on this story as they develop.
6:15 PM Tue, Feb 08, 2011
Source: The Dallas Morning News