Photo: Cocaine seized at airport
The central government took charge of security at the country’s main international airport after learning that military and civilian officials connived in smuggling 1.5 tons of cocaine to France, Venezuela’s interior minister said Thursday.
“That airport security unit ... has been taken over and all the necessary changes will have to be made there to guarantee that it doesn’t occur again,” Miguel Rodriguez Torres told reporters after participating in a government event in Caracas.
Venezuelan authorities have arrested 22 people so far, he said, including eight military personnel, airport administrators, inspectors and employees of Air France.
Among the detainees are people who participated in the handling of suitcases packed with 1,382 kilos (3,044 lbs.) of cocaine from when they arrived at the airport until they entered the aircraft, Rodriguez said.
“We’re even starting today (Thursday) to question people who work with the airport camera system because they could have detected irregular movement in that sector,” he said.
He also said that among the material being investigated is X-ray imagery of the baggage in which the presence of the packets of cocaine in the bags can be “clearly” seen.
“We’re also reviewing the people who traveled in the airplane as part of the crew because undoubtedly there has to be the complicity of someone with the plane because there is unregistered excess weight,” he said.
“It’s clear that there was planning and coordination (and) that is what organized crime normally does,” the minister said.
“We know, according to the French police ... that it’s a cartel of Italians and Englishmen who buy drugs in South America and distribute it in Europe,” he added.
The case came to light last Saturday when the French Interior Ministry announced the seizure of the drugs.