DRUG TRAFFICKING

Spaniard held in Brazil with more than one ton of cocaine on private jet

Officers discovered the drug hidden in 24 suitcases on an airplane headed for Brussels in Belgium

Footage of police officers uncovering the cocaine hidden in suitcases (Spanish text).PHOTO | VIDEO: FEDERAL POLICE

A Spanish citizen was detained on Wednesday at a Brazilian airport after federal police found 1,304 kilograms of cocaine inside 24 suitcases on a private jet bound for Europe.

The Spaniard, whose identity has not been released, was the only passenger on board the plane, which had stopped in Fortaleza, in northeastern Brazil, after taking off from Riberão Preto in the state of São Paulo en route to Brussels (Belgium). Both he and the four crew members, all Turkish nationals, have been held for questioning, according to the police release.

The bust took place at Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International Airport, where the Turkish aircraft had stopped for immigration paperwork. The police have released a video showing the moment when the passenger is asked to open one of the suitcases in the presence of the captain.

Each suitcase contained 50 packets of cocaine, according to police

After denying that the suitcase is his, the man finally opens it, and an officer finds large packets that he slashes with a knife to reveal a white powder. There were 50 packets per suitcase, according to the police.

The raid was a result of a police investigation, according to the police chief in Ceará, Alan Robson, who said the Spanish passenger gave vague answers to security personnel when asked about the reason for his trip to Brazil.

This is not the first time that police identify private jets being used to transport cocaine from Brazil to Europe. In April, several planes were seized in a large operation against drug smuggling.

Traffickers continue to innovate in their race to get past police surveillance. Last year, the Spanish police intercepted a submarine that had traveled down the Amazon river carrying two crew members and three tons of cocaine, then crossed the Atlantic Ocean before reaching the coast of Galicia in northwestern Spain 26 days later.

And two years ago, the Spanish Civil Guard in Seville arrested a Brazilian sergeant who was carrying 39 kilograms of cocaine on an aircraft that was part of an advance team accompanying Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro to the G20 summit in Japan.

English version by Susana Urra.

Errata

An earlier version of this story said the raid took place in Recife. It took place in Fortaleza.

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