The images accompanying this copy were taken at Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport, on the outskirts of the capital Colombo.
The aircraft in question appears to have a rather colourful past.
Western Global Airlines N545JN, a CIA-connected cargo plane, flew to South Africa from Europe on 13 February 2016.
After a few changes, the official narrative became that it landed in Munich, Germany(visibly bloodstained) and took on a “Diplomatic Shipment” of 67 tonnes of banknotes intended for the South African Reserve Bank.
“The plane stopped at Harare International Airport to refuel and ground handling staff noticed blood dripping from the aircraft air conditioning vault.” The Africa News Agency cites a report that ” a search was made and the body of an adult male fell out.” The plane and crew were held for a few days by Zimbabwe police, but as with the 2006 bust of a CIA-connected DC-9 carrying 5.6 tonnes of cocaine no prosecutions were forthcoming.
Flight AJK-4425 from Entebbe (Uganda) to Liege (Belgium), before flying on to Munich, still as flight AJK-4425 the same day.
It took on 67 tonnes of freshly printed banknotes (out of its capacity of 160 tonnes). As the South African Reserve Bank later clarified:
“The bulk of the annual production of banknotes is done locally in South Africa and a small percentage is done offshore as part of the contingency plans of the SARB. The aircraft currently detained at Harare Airport is carrying a consignment of South African banknotes that was produced overseas as part of the SARB’s annual production plan.”
South African Reserve Bank (16 February 2016)
Minor bloodstains were detectable on the side of the plane when it landed in Munich and ground staff in Munich asked about them, but reportedly believed the crew’s explanation that the blood was because the plane had struck a bird.
On Feb 13th 2016, N545JN taxiing in Munich, with the blood stains enlarged (Photo: Markus Schwab, a planespotter whose photograph of the aircraft in Munich showed blood stains on the right hand side of the fuselage – courtesy of the Aviation Herald)
The (emergency) landing
After being denied landing in Maputo (Mozambique), the plane made what was initially referred to as an emergency landing at the Zimbabwean capital Harare but which was later described as “a routine fuel stop in Zimbabwe”
The crew consisted of three pilots (“led by two Americans” and a mechanic as well as two passengers who were traveling as couriers for the diplomatic shipment.
The banknote cargo comprised 67 tonnes of South African Rand. With an exchange rate of about 15 South African Rand to the US Dollar and notes up to 200 Rand, this could have had a face value of up to ~$2 US billion.
The Zimbabwe Herald reported that “the ground crew refueling the plane alerted local authorities” after noticing blood dripping from the plane. The authorities also noted that not only did the plane contain the body of a dead black man, it also had 67 tonnes of South African cash in the hold. The airline later explained that “during a routine fuel stop in Zimbabwe, a body was found in the lower compartment. The body is presumed to be a stowaway who may have entered the airplane during a previous stop.” Another report suggested that he “could be a vagrant who sneaked into the aeroplane when it landed at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.” The South African Reserve bank reported that the “body was found in the plane’s cargo hold.”
The plane and contents were impounded but later released, together with the crew. The Zimbabwean police reportedly stated that the autopsy of the body revealed no internal or external injuries, the death was result of lack of oxygen, and so finding nothing suspicious, they let the crew continue on their way
Ground staff gingerly approach the dead body.
As of July 2017, FAA website indicated that it was registered to 7892 FISHER ISLAND DR, DADE, MIAMI FLORIDA. The owner’s real name is not given, but planes of the same make and model number are registered to Sky Lease I Inc and Centurion Air Cargo Inc, both of 4500 NW 36TH ST, MIAMI SPRINGS, FL 33166-6121.
The plane was constructed in May 1995 in Long Beach, California, USA and initially operated as B-16106 by EVA Airways from 22 June 1995. Next it was operated as N106BV by Wells Fargo Bank Northwest from 14 May 2008 for just 2 weeks before they sold it to Shanghai Airlines, where it was operated as B-2179, before being transferred to China Cargo Airlines on 1 June 2011. It was stored at Mojave Air and Space Port (California) on 17 November 2013 before being sold to Western Global Airlines on 15. Aug 2014. WGA flew it to Oscoda–Wurtsmith Airport (Michigan) and stored it there from 17th August 2014 to 26. Mar 2015, when it resumed flying.
Planespotters’ sitings indicate it seems to pay regular visits to Liege, Munich and Stanstead airports. 5 days before this event, on Feb 8, 2016, the plane was videoed making a hard landing in strong winds at Stansted Airport.
This story raises a number of concerns. Many of those questioned changed their stories or just refused to provide any explanation. The “emergency landing” for example was later being described as a “routine fuel stop”. The Aviation Herald published a report on 16 February 2016 which remarked that they “met this story with disbelief. Blood dripping off the aircraft after so many hours of flight? This detail alone shot the story down at an instant.” Their report contains little interpretation but plenty of useful details.
Cause of death
Markus Schwab’s photo appears to support the claim that Munich ground staff noticed blood stains. Daniel Hopsicker reported the blood stains were reported as coming from the severed arm of a dead man. Various sources report the body in an advanced state of decay – so much so that fingerprints could not be taken and that his age could not be estimated. This cannot be easily reconciled with the Zimbabwean police narrative of a stowaway dying from a simple lack of oxygen.
Daniel Hopsicker writes that ““Western Global Airlines” was once known as “Southern Air Transport.” The same management that brought Southern Air out of bankruptcy back in 2002 still owns it today (August 2016). So the plane belongs to a CIA contractor. When Western Global started service, the airline announced – probably not tongue-in-cheek – that it would:
“serve the major cargo centers of South America, where they will be flying from Colombia to Miami carrying cut flowers.” But there’s another reason that’s the real clincher: The crisis PR firm the airline hires to release the press release did PR for the Minnesota dentist who killed “Cecil the Lion.””
Other Unanswered Questions
As IOL, a South African website, summarised:
“What is the identity of the dead man; why would anyone stow away on an Africa-bound aircraft in Germany; where did he come from; and how did he end up on the large cargo aircraft?”
One might also wonder whether central banks often move cash like this, and if so, whether any controls or written records exist? Is there any kind of oversight?