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
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: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones