Record cocaine haul seized on Air France plane

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 4:53am


French police have seized a record haul of 1.3 tonnes of pure cocaine on board an Air France passenger plane, Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced.

The drugs, seized on September 11, were packed into 30 suitcases. Valls said it was the country's biggest-ever haul.

A source close to the investigation said the flight originated in the Venezuelan capital Caracas. The cocaine had a street value of €200 million (HK$2.1 billion).

The operation was carried out in collaboration with Spanish, British and Dutch police and Valls said "members of a criminal organisation" were arrested.

Valls said the seizure showed the "importance of strengthening international co-operation in the fight against traffickers", as he displayed the 30 empty suitcases that contained the cocaine.

They were not linked to any of the passengers on the flight.

Valls said four tonnes of cocaine had been seized in France since the start of the year.

"Such a seizure, in such circumstances, is exceptional," French police commander Mohamed Douhane said.

"Now an inquiry ... will have to determine if there were other accomplices, whether within the company or at the arrival or departure airports," he added.

Authorities in Caracas said they had also launched an investigation to determine the origins of the haul. The office of Venezuela's attorney general said prosecutors and National Guard anti-drug police were investigating how the cocaine-laden suitcases got aboard the flight at the Simon Bolivar International Airport.

They are also trying to discover who was behind the operation.

Cocaine comes from coca leaves grown in countries such as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

Venezuela does not produce cocaine, according to United Nations monitors, but drug traffickers are increasingly using its territory to smuggle drugs into other nations.

Last year, Venezuelan police seized 45 tonnes of illegal drugs, according to government figures.