French officials announced the largest haul of cocaine ever seized in that country—1.3 metric tons, or 2,900 pounds—was found in suitcases on an Air France flight arriving from Venezuela. The drugs were worth at least $67 million, The New York Times reports.
The cocaine was contained in hard-sided rolling suitcases. The seizure raises questions about the security of the baggage scanning system, the article notes.
Six people were in police custody Monday in France, and three members of the National Guard in Venezuela were also detained.
“To have one ton on an airplane is exceptionally high,” said Thomas Pietschmann, Research Officer at the Studies and Threat Analysis section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna. “It starts from a few grams to a few kilos.”
Much of the cocaine consumed in Europe used to be transported from South America by boat to West Africa, and then transported over land. Pietschmann noted in recent years European cocaine consumption has remained stable, but seizures have diminished. He said if more cocaine is found on airplanes, it might answer the question of how the drug is now making its way into Europe. “For a long time, we were asking how was it going in,” he said. “There was a black hole.”
Air France said it is investigating the incident. “At this stage, the information in our possession does not allow us to establish how such events were possible taking into account the company’s very strict procedures in terms of the monitoring of the luggage and merchandise loaded aboard — in particular in this type of airport,” the company said in a statement.