Video shows $25m stash of cocaine that led to entire Canadian flight crew being jailed

A new video shows a 210-kilogram stash of cocaine found on a Canadian charter plane which led to an entire flight crew being imprisoned in the Dominican Republic after they reported it to police thinking it was a bomb.

Five Pivot Airlines crew members discovered the contraband – later confirmed to be cocaine worth an estimated $25m – on the aircraft and alerted authorities while grounded at the Punta Cana International airport in the Dominican Republic on 5 April.

Video released by a Dominican news agency this week shows 200 bricks of cocaine lined up on the tarmac just outside the jet.

When it was first discovered by members of the crew, the illegal substance had been packaged into eight parcels and it was later revealed that these parcels had 25 smaller ones inside. The smaller packages are the ones that can be seen lined up outside the plane in the video.

Despite having directed authorities to the stash, the flight crew for the twin-engine jet – which arrived in the Caribbean country on 31 March and was scheduled to fly back to Toronto on 4 April – was detained and held for questioning.

Pivot Airlines condemned the crew members’ detention in a statement earlier this week, saying they had followed the company’s own “policies and procedures” as well as “local and international laws and regulations” by alerting local authorities to the discovery.

Airline officials said the crew “averted a likely air disaster that could have been caused by the extra weight and the flammable packages being close to electrical equipment”.

The statement said it is “unacceptable that a Canadian aircrew could remain detained for the duration of a potential twelve-month investigation for a suspected crime that they reported”.

Officials added that their chief priority now is ensuring their staff’s safety while being detained abroad.

“Our primary concern is our crew’s safety, security, ethical and humane treatment as we seek to ensure their safe return to Canada,” the airline said, according to the Waterloo Record.

“We have engaged local embassies and retained reputable and experienced local legal representation in support of our crew members,” the statement continued. “Our focus is on supporting our crew during this difficult time and we are committed to returning them home safely.”

The crew had initially only found one of the contraband packages, located in a maintenance compartment that contained critical electrical gear, which was what prompted the call to local police in the Dominican Republic and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Later, the Dominican authorities who swept the plane found the additional seven packages.

Pivot Airlines has not identified the crew members involved in the international affair but confirmed in a statement shared on 6 April that those detained include plane’s captain, first officer, two cabin crew, and a maintenance engineer. Six other people were also detained in the investigation.

The Independent reached out to Pivot Airlines for comment on the crew members.

CTV News reported that a Dominican court had “decided to improve the conditions for crew, and outlined a process for their eventual release from detention.”

It was not confirmed whether these “improved” conditions were also applied to the other six people who are being detained and questioned in relation to the drug seizure.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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