Venezuela detains seven more over France cocaine bust

24th September 2013, Comments 0 comments

Five members of the Venezuelan military were among seven people arrested following the seizure of 1.3 tons of cocaine aboard a airliner that flew from Caracas to Paris, prosecutors said Tuesday.

That raised to 10 the total number of detainees in Venezuela, not considered a big producer of the drug but rather a transit point for shipments headed from Peru and Colombia to the United States and elsewhere.

A total of 45 tons of cocaine were seized last year in Venezuela, according to government figures.

The Air France plane with the 1.3 tons of the drug arrived in Paris on September 11.

So far, Venezuela had detained an officer of the anti-drug unit of the Bolivarian National Guard and two other military people.

Of the new detainees, who were arrested Monday and Tuesday, five are members of that national guard, another is an airport security official and the last one also works at the airport, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The cocaine has an estimated street value of 200 million euros ($270 million).

Two Britons and three Italians have been detained in France over the smuggling case.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said it seems clear that Air France employees conspired with the Venezuelan military to get the drug load into France.

French police sources say the drugs arrived in France on September 11 but were not seized until the 20th. Investigators apparently allowed time to see who was picking them up.

Part of the haul was seized at the airport and some on a truck headed towards Luxembourg -- a route which suggests the end destination could have been the Netherlands or Britain.

"How does it arrive in France and they get it off the plane without going through the normal procedures?" Rodriguez said.

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© 2013 AFP

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