France: 1.3 Tons of Cocaine Seized on Jet
French authorities seized 2,900 pounds of cocaine on a commercial Air France flight from Caracas, France's interior minister Manuel Valls announced on Saturday. According to The New York Times, the seizure occurred at Charles de Gaulle Airport this month but France did not divulge a specific date.
The Interior Ministry said that the cocaine, appraised at a street value of US$270 million, was the largest such bust in the nation's history. The drugs were to be sold throughout Europe.
Six foreign nationals were arrested, three from Italy and at least one from the UK. French officials did not identify any of the alleged smugglers, although a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office noted that none were French. Authorities stated that several more arrests are expected in connection with a larger smuggling ring.
The alleged smugglers packed some 30 suitcases with cocaine and labeled them with false tags. Authorities observed the packages for more than one week before they were picked up on September 20, according to Reuters.
In addition to the six arrests in France, the Venezuelan Attorney General's office announced that eight members of Venezuela's National Guard were arrested. Venezuelan authorities stated that the guardsmen, five sergeants and three officers including one lieutenant colonel, will face charges related to the cocaine smuggling operation although no additional details were given. The Venezuelan attorney general's office also announced the arrests of two Simon Bolivar international airport staff members.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the US has blacklisted several Venezuelan military officials as a form of pressure on Venezuela to crack down on narcotics smuggling.
Air France put out a statement announcing an internal investigation into how employees scan and monitor luggage.