Almost the perfect heist: How airport security screener ‘stole US$2 million’

HARARE – It was the perfect crime. Almost.

Roselyn Dunga, a 31-year-old woman working as a security screener at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport was close to the end of her shift sometime in October last year.

Her job that day was to monitor the conveyor belt X-ray machine, scanning all check-in luggage for any suspicious cargo – from guns, precious metals, animal products, drugs to large sums of cash.

Last on the schedule on her shift was an Emirates flight departing for Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

Dunga’s eyes almost popped when five bags rolled in, and she could see they were packed with what appeared to be cash. Just then, she made a decision which would bring her fortune – and a curse.

“She decided she would let four of the bags go through. She lifted one of the bags from the belt and put it on the side,” a law enforcement source told ZimLive.

At the end of her shift, Dunga took the bag and – somehow – walked out of the airport which is known for security lapses. After breaking the locking mechanism of the fortified bag, she discovered – to her shock and utter delight – that she had US$2 million. In cash.

Then began the splurge.

Dunga, of Stoneridge in Waterfalls, Harare, began with a tithe. She gave her pastor Edmore Chipisa of the Heavenly Fire Ministries US$400,000 which he used to purchase a plush new home on Leegate Crescent in the exclusive suburb of Gunhill.

Using her sister, Locadia Chumikosi, Dunga paid an eye-popping US$580,000 for a double storey house on Giraffe Crescent in Borrowdale West.

Through her 17-year-old nephew, she acquired a 19-hectare plot in Selous for US$130,000.

Immovable properties acquired included a Mercedes Benz 350 for US$95,000, an Iveco truck, three DAF XF 105 truck horses, three flatbed trailers and a 42,000-litre fuel tanker.

At the end of the property acquisition spree, Dunga had spent US$1.4 million.

Heist … Prosecutors say a bag with US$2 million was stolen from the checked luggage conveyor belt at RGM International Airport

So far, it was the perfect heist. The owner of the cash could not try to claim it without landing himself or herself in jail. Regulations say travellers are only allowed to take US$2,000 in cash out of the country. You who knows a victimless crime.

Then calamity. As Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero once remarked, “an enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly, but the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.”

Dunga’s best kept secret was exposed – not by her enemies but by her boyfriend.

“The motivations appear quite simple. She was acquiring property in her name and the names of her relatives – and he was being left out of the estate she was building. He went to the police with what he knew. You may not like the methods of our Criminal Investigations Department detectives but they got her to sing like a canary. She took them to every corner where she had invested,” a National Prosecuting Authority source told ZimLive.

Police now knew how she had happened on her fortune, but they still didn’t know whose money it was. Senior detectives told ZimLive we might never know.

“She told police the traveller was someone of Pakistani origin. It was also her analysis that the total amount being smuggled out was US$10 million in five bags,” one senior police officer said.

Among police detectives, however, there is a theory they are refusing to dismiss.

“We believe she had a prior arrangement with someone to smuggle a large amount of money out, and she stole from that person knowing full well they would most certainly not come back for it,” one detective said.

Almost perfect … Roselyn Dunga is accused of stealing US$2 million while working at the RG Mugabe International Airport

The sometimes scarcely believably story above has been told with the help of sparsely-detailed court documents and interviews with prosecutors and police investigators. Dunga and her pastor Chipisa were arrested in November last year and released on Z$20,000 bail each. They are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

This week, prosecutors obtained a High Court injunction stopping Dunga and Chipisa from disposing of the properties until the end of their trial.

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