Three arrests in Air France cocaine haul

Last updated 12:56 23/09/2013

Relevant offers

Travel Troubles

Three hurt by Air New Zealand jet blast in Rarotonga Naked Bus passengers face big delays in North Island Dried frogs and tiger tooth intercepted at border Traveller shames airport eatery over sandwich Sex, Lies and Cruising: What really happens on cruise ships Pilots sacked for letting model take selfies in cockpit Mt Hutt ski area queue causes delays Brace for more strike chaos at Australian airports Black ice causes chaos on southern roads Fault forces Air NZ Honolulu flight to return to Auckland

Venezuela has arrested three National Guard officials for alleged involvement in smuggling 1.3 tonnes of cocaine on an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris, the South American nation's public prosecutor's office said.

The seizure of the cocaine haul valued at as much as €200 million ($322.67 million) comes as Washington is again accusing Venezuela of failing to adequately fight trafficking of cocaine from neighbouring Colombia.

Public prosecutors will charge a first sergeant, a second sergeant and a first lieutenant for "allegedly committing crimes established by Venezuelan law," the prosecutor's office said, without offering details of what charges it would file.

It added that authorities in Paris had detained six people, three of whom are Italian and three British.

The drugs were stashed in suitcases that were registered under false names that did not correspond to passengers on the flight to Charles de Gaulle airport, French police sources said.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls estimated the cocaine shipment had a value of €50 million, while police and legal sources said the street value of the drug could be as much as €200 million.

"This marks the biggest seizure of cocaine ever made in mainland France as part of a judicial investigation," Valls told reporters.

French authorities said the drugs were found earlier this month but details of the raid were only released over the weekend. Venezuelan authorities said the drugs were seized on Sept 20.

Air France said it was still trying to find out how the drugs were smuggled on board.

"Pending the results of these investigations, immediate measures have been taken to enhance our checks of baggage and goods on departure from certain sensitive destinations," the airline said in a statement.

TRANSIT COUNTRY

Drug enforcement experts say Venezuela's location on South America's Caribbean and Atlantic seaboards makes it a preferred route for planes and ships carrying Colombian cocaine to the United States and Europe via Central America and Africa.

The United States has for over a decade accused Venezuela of turning a blind eye to drug smuggling, and has described several high-ranking military officials and ruling party allies as drug "kingpins."

The White House said in an annual report this month that Venezuela, along with Bolivia and Myanmar, had not made substantial efforts during the last 12 months to meet its obligations under global counter-narcotics agreements.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro, who won an election in April that followed Hugo Chavez's death from cancer, calls such criticism a politically motivated smear campaign.

Ad Feedback

He says anti-narcotics cooperation has actually improved since 2005, when Chavez kicked out the U.S. drug enforcement agents.

Last year, Venezuelan security forces working with Colombian authorities and US and British intelligence agencies caught one of the most-wanted Colombian kingpins - Daniel "Crazy" Barrera - during an operation in a Venezuelan border city.

- Reuters

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content