Several crew members of a KLM cargo aircraft have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling drugs. More than 80 kilos of cocaine, with a street value of around $8.5m, was found being loaded onto a Boeing 747 Freighter at Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport on Tuesday. The 747, operated by Martinair, was due to fly back to Amsterdam that day.
Martinair Holland often flies the route between Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Buenos Aries in Argentina. The aircraft, registered PH-CKA, is a 16-year-old Boeing 747, and was due to fly to Quito in Ecuador before traveling back to Amsterdam. However, on Tuesday this week, it was transporting more than just a few regular packages and parcels.
The aircraft had previously stopped off at Sao Paulo in Brazil, before landing at Buenos Aries Ezeiza International Airport, ready to be loaded for the next leg of the trip. It was at this point, as the aircraft was being loaded, that customs arrived.
More than 50 customs officers and five specialist sniffer dogs arrived with a court order in hand to conduct a search of the aircraft. What they discovered on board, stuffed into cervices between cargo pallets, was one of the biggest drug hauls ever found on an aircraft.
Altogether some 82 bricks of cocaine were discovered onboard the aircraft. The haul is estimated to weigh over 80 kilos and be worth in excess of $8m on the street.
— Aviation24.be (@aviation24_be) January 16, 2020
Dutch news outlet AD reports that seven individuals were arrested at the scene. Of these, three were Dutch nationals and members of the Boeing 747 crew. Four other arrested people were members of the ground staff at the airport. One is reported by Argentinian outlet Clarin as having evaded arrest and as currently being a fugitive.
Footage has been released of the drugs being loaded onto the plane. Two trucks arrive briskly at the side of the aircraft. Parking at the base of the stairs, two people can be seen going down to the truck and taking on board three boxes. In these boxes were the 82 packets of cocaine.
Así subían 82 kilos de cocaína disimulados en palets a un avión carguero de KLM. Un operativo de rutina de Aduana descubrió la carga. Hay siete detenidos. pic.twitter.com/mG1raz8S04
— Mauro Szeta (@mauroszeta) January 15, 2020
Simple Flying contacted KLM about the incident, and they replied with the following:
“We can confirm Argentinean authorities are investigating a freighter operation conducted by Martinair Cargo. KLM and Martinair Cargo will fully cooperate with the investigation.”
Martinair is a Dutch cargo airline headquartered at Amsterdam Schiphol and is a subsidiary of Air France-KLM. As of December last year, it has only this one Boeing 747-400BCF, and uses it to operate scheduled freight services to 20 destinations. It previously operated passenger planes as well as freighters, but ended passenger ops in October 2011 after 53 years of service.
This is the biggest haul of cocaine from an aircraft in some time, and follows on from $400,000 of liquid cocaine being found in Houston last November, as well as $3m worth of drugs being smuggled on an SAA aircraft in October.
London Gatwick previously thought they had made a massive drugs bust, but that haul turned out to be vegan cake mix!