Record 1.3 tonne cocaine haul seized on Air France plane to Paris

The drugs were reportedly destined for the Calabrian Mafia

Paris

French police have seized a record haul of 1.3 tonnes of pure cocaine, stored in 31 suitcases in the hold of an Air France flight to Paris from Venezuela. Not one was registered to a real passenger.

The drugs, which had a street value of €200m, were reportedly destined for the Calabrian Mafia known as the ‘Ndrangheta. The Italian criminal organisation is reputed to control 80 per cent of the cocaine exported from Latin America to Europe, after moving into drug trafficking in the 1970s.

The French police, cooperating with British, Spanish and Dutch colleagues, arrested several people last Friday when they confiscated 900 kilos of cocaine at Charles de Gaulle airport. A further 400 kilos were found inside a lorry heading from Paris to Luxembourg after arriving from Venezuela. Together, it was the biggest ever drugs haul on French soil.

The arrests came after weeks of investigation. All of the colourful 31 suitcases containing the drugs which were checked in for the Caracas to Paris Air France flight were registered to fictitious passengers. The suspects, of various nationalities, were still being questioned on Sunday on charges of belonging to an international drugs smuggling ring. Police will be trying to establish whether the traffickers were working with airline or airport insiders.

Venezuelan police are also investigating how the shipment came to be on the plane. Venezuela is not a cocaine producing country but is becoming a trafficking hub.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, speaking at a news conference on Saturday, hailed the operation as a “fine victory” for French authorities which have been combating a rise in drugs shipments in recent months. Four tonnes of cocaine have been confiscated since the beginning of this year. According to Mr Valls the number of drug smuggling rings which have been dismantled by police has risen by 12 per cent since January.

Mr Valls, standing in front of the suitcases emptied of the drugs, also stressed the need for tightened cooperation with other European police. He said that international drug traffickers “are constantly setting up new strategies. They are diversifying drug routes, so we therefore have to adapt our operations, and our strategies to these developments.”

In previous years, French police at the port of Le Havre seized 700 kilos of cocaine in March 2011 in a shipment from Panama. In May 2009, 584 kilos were discovered in a lorry travelling from Spain. According to the 2013 annual report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the world’s largest cocaine seizures continue to be reported from Colombia (200 tonnes) and the United States (94 tonnes). But while North America and Europe earlier dominated the cocaine market, today they account for roughly one half of users globally, according to the UN.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head