Exclusive: Business jet crew ‘was complicit’ in alleged drug smuggling between Europe and South America

Mike Stones
By Mike Stones August 21, 2019 13:22

Exclusive: Business jet crew ‘was complicit’ in alleged drug smuggling between Europe and South America

The Gulfstream V was pictured on airport security cameras.

 

Members of the crew of a business jet impounded during a drugs raid at a major European airport in May are alleged to have been complicit in the smuggling of millions of pounds worth of cocaine between South America and Europe, Corporate Jet Investor can exclusively reveal.

The crew of the Gulfstream V, pictured above, were said to be part of an international criminal gang involved in smuggling the cocaine, luxury goods and cash, according to the EU law enforcement agency Europol.

“The crew that was confirmed to have a knowledge of the trafficking operation were arrested and kept in custody, subject of on-going judicial investigation,” a Europol spokesperson told Corporate Jet Investor.

The Gulfstream V was owned by a private company, it was confirmed. “More details would not be possible to share [at this stage], due to on-going judicial investigation,” said the spokesperson.

Instead of fleets of aircraft being used by the criminal gang, “the investigation confirmed the exploitation of a single aircraft”, Corporate Jet Investor has learnt.

‘Confirmed the exploitation of a single aircraft’

The arrests and the seizure of a 600kg cocaine shipment were made at an airport in Switzerland, thought to be EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg.

The seizure of the Gulfstream V and the arrest of her crew were the culmination of simultaneous raids across three continents by international law enforcement agencies co-ordinated by Europol and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The operation – known as Operation Familia – targeted a suspected Balkans crime gang and resulted in 16 arrests, with 11 in Europe and five in Asia. The raids also netted more than one tonne of cocaine and €2 million in cash.

One tonne of cocaine and €2 million in cash

The operation began in 2018 and was led by the Croatian Police and the Croatian Special Prosecutors’ Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime. It was acting on suspicions that a large-scale Balkans-organised criminal network was trafficking cocaine from South America to Europe using private planes.

Meanwhile, last August at Farnborough Airport, near Heathrow Airport, four men were convicted last August, of smuggling half a tonne of cocaine with a street value of more than £41 million into the UK on a private jet.

Fifteen suitcases stuffed with cocaine were found at the airport in January on a plane returning from Colombia.

Speaking after the Farnborough convictions, National Crime Agency senior manager Steve McIntyre said the UK drug seizure highlighted “a border vulnerability”. McIntyre told BBC News: “There are over 3,000 airports or airstrips in the UK and there’s no way on this earth that any law enforcement agency is going to be able to man those all the time. By working collaboratively, we are making headway now. It’s about intelligent policing and profiling better.”

Meanwhile, DEA declined to answer Corporate Jet Investor’s questions due “to on-going investigations.”

Mike Stones
By Mike Stones August 21, 2019 13:22

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