Venezuela Arrests 3 Britons in Air France Cocaine Case
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Three Britons are among nine people arrested on two continents over the smuggling of 1.3 tons of cocaine on an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris, the South American nation's public prosecutor's office said.
Venezuela has arrested three national guard officials for their alleged involvement in the haul, valued at as much as €200m (£170m). The prosecutor's office said the three Britons and three Italians had been detained in Paris.
Public prosecutors in Venezuela will charge a first sergeant, a second sergeant and a first lieutenant for "allegedly committing crimes established by Venezuelan law", the prosecutor's office said, without offering details of what charges it would file.
The drugs were stashed in suitcases registered under false names that did not correspond to passengers on the flight to Charles de Gaulle airport, French police sources told Reuters.
French interior minister Manuel Valls estimated the cocaine shipment had a value of €50m, while police and legal sources said the street value of the drug could be as much as €200m.
"This marks the biggest seizure of cocaine ever made in mainland France as part of a judicial investigation," Valls told reporters on Saturday.
French authorities said the drugs were found earlier this month but details of the raid were released only over the weekend. Venezuelan authorities said the drugs were seized on 20 September.
Air France said it was still trying to find out how the drugs were smuggled on board.
"Pending the results of these investigations, immediate measures have been taken to enhance our checks of baggage and goods on departure from certain sensitive destinations," the airline said in a statement.