South African billionaire Dr Christo Wiese claimed in the UK High Court on Wednesday he should never have been treated with suspicion for trying to board a plane in 2009 with nearly £700 000 or R7m in cash, The Daily Mail reported.
Wiese’s High Court application followed a decision by the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court in 2010 that the money should be forfeited as potential proceeds of criminal activity.
Wiese indicated at the time that he would appeal the decision and this process concluded on Wednesday in the UK High Court.
According to The Daily Mail, Wiese’s barrister, Clare Montgomery QC, said Wiese was a man of good character whose wealth could be traced to legitimate and extensive business activities. She also said there was no evidence that he had any criminal associates in the UK or South Africa.
Montgomery claimed that the amount of money was consistent with Wiese’s stated wealth, “representing less than two weeks’ income and a minute fraction of his assets.”
Montgomery also said Wiese fully assisted with the investigation.
According to the newspaper, lawyers representing the UK Border Agency said Wiese claimed during their investigation that the money came from diamond deals in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. Wiese apparently kept this money in a safety deposit box in the Ritz hotel due to foreign exchange restrictions in South Africa at the time.
The Daily Mail reported that Justice Underhill has reserved judgment.
The much-publicised seizure took place in April 2009 when Wiese tried to board a plane at the London City Airport bound for Luxembourg.
Wiese was asked by UK border agency officers whether he was carrying any cash, Wiese acknowledged that he had £120 000 in his hand luggage.
According to a statement from the UK Border Agency at the time, officers searched his hand luggage and found the cash in £20 and £50 notes. His checked luggage contained a further £400 000 to £500 000.
When Wiese was interviewed at the London City Airport, he said he intended to invest the money in banks in Luxembourg. He claimed he had transported the cash out of South Africa in the form of travellers’ cheques to avoid exchange controls.
When asked by Moneyweb why he was moving around with such a large sum of cash in his luggage, he said: “For tax and other reasons, I wanted to move the money from my bank in London to Luxembourg.
“It was a straightforward transfer from one European Union (EU) country to another, so there was no reason to declare it. Had I been moving to a non-EU country, I would have had to fill in a form but that was not the case.”