The devil’s in the dollar on this one. Following the Sunday Times‘ explosive report that Jacob Zuma helped stash Muammar Gaddafi’s “missing millions” in a bunker at Nkandla, speculation has been rife about whether the former president will have to face any criminal charges going forward.
It is alleged that Msholozi accepted $30 million – about R420 million – from the former dictator of Libya just months before he died: Gaddafi, fearing the end was near for his regime, apparently barreled money out of the country from the federal reserve – these “missing millions” have taken on their own legend and folklore over the last decade.
Jacob Zuma could face US probe over Gaddafi deak
The Nkandla bunker has been subject to much speculation over the years. On a visit to the former president’s home, ex-Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was denied access to the sealed-off room. Investigators are adamant that this is where Msholozi hid the mega-bucks.
But few could have predicted where the cash would supposedly go next: It’s now reported that the dollars were shifted into Eswatini, and the current king of the nation told Cyril Ramaphosa he was in possession of the money during a meeting last week. That may turn out to be a devastating admission for Jacob Zuma.
Solly Malatsi is a spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance (DA). He explains that, because the US currency was expropriated from the Libyan state and handled illegally by all complicit parties, investigative units from the USA will now have a keen interest in these developments:
“The DA calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take the nation into his confidence and come clean about his involvement in the case of the missing millions. In addition, the President needs to aid in recovering these millions and to ensure that the National Prosecuting Authority holds Zuma accountable for his actions.”
“This missing money is of keen interest to several bodies, including the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and the United States Authorities. There are possible violations of sanctions associated with the money, as well as the contravention of foreign exchange controls.”
Why Gaddafi’s “missing millions” could become an American investigation
According to the letter of the law, Malatsi may well be on to something. Legal experts White and Case have previously explained how any crime committed using US dollars immediately falls into the jurisdiction of lawmakers across The Atlantic. Therefore, any crime committed with the American currency becomes a crime concerning the US:
“Virtually every dollar-denominated transaction potentially implicates US commerce with other nations. US enforcement authorities increasingly operate on the assumption (unless convinced otherwise) that they have jurisdiction for such offences whenever a suspect transaction is denominated in US dollars.”
White and Case
And according to the Columbia Business Law Review, the likes of the FBI and the American Federal Reserve have to enforce this legislation due to the sheer volume of transactions that take place in US$ between foreign countries. If they spot any suspicious transactions, they have the right to act upon it:
“The US not only may order the freeze of dollar transfers, but also the seizure of dollar accounts that are maintained by foreign banks outside the United States. These measures against foreign transfers and foreign accounts have a great impact, as 55 – 70% of all U.S. dollars are held abroad.”
Columbia Business Law Review
A crime committed in US dollars is a crime against the US itself
It’s these laws that have ended up bringing Manuel Chang to book, too. The former finance minister of Mozambique was detained in Johannesburg this year, at the behest of US authorities. He had committed major acts of fraud and corruption, through transactions which were facilitated in US dollars.
So there are already precedents in place for holding rogue dollar-users to account. As the “missing millions” were allegedly misappropriated, this is a case that could indeed fall into the jurisdiction of American officials. It looks like Jacob Zuma is going to need a bigger bunker to hide away from this one.