A court in the central Venezuelan state of Carabobo ordered 18 people jailed provisionally, including nine Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) agents and a member of the Sebin intelligence service, in the case of a drug-running aircraft that was nabbed in Spain.
The federal Attorney General's Office said in a communique on Saturday that 18 people remain in jail of the 24 detained after the unauthorized takeoff last weekend of a private plane, which was subsequently impounded on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria along with the 1,588 kilos (1 3/4 tons) of very pure cocaine it was carrying.
Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck el Aissami said that the plane took off in the wee hours of Aug. 13 from Arturo Michelena International Airport in the central city of Valencia without authorization and with the runway lights turned off, and that Venezuelan authorities quickly notified Interpol and several European countries including Spain.
The AG's office said that those implicated are accused of drug trafficking and illicit association, and that among those in custody, besides the Bolivarian National Guard agents, are an air traffic controller, two officials of Civil Aviation, or INAC, an airport guard and four people associated with a naval services company.
Also accused, but only required to report in periodically, are airport President Freddy Rodriguez, General Manager Jaime Palacios, and the director of airport operations, Anibal Jose Rojas, all suspected accomplices of a drug trafficking operation.
Also accused under those conditions are another two National Guard agents.
Venezuelan authorities said during the week that the aircraft, a Bombardier BD-7000 with the Maltese registration 9HFED, had landed in Venezuela last Saturday night on a flight from Trinidad and Tobago, though its flight plan said it came from Grenada.
The flight plan also indicated that the plane was scheduled to fly the next day to Brazil, but instead took off Sunday at 2:26 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) with the airport closed, and was headed east at the time Interpol was notified.
The head of the Spanish police, Ignacio Cosido, said Wednesday that the seizure of 1 3/4 tons of cocaine from the aircraft on Gran Canaria would mean "a powerful blow" to drug trafficking rings operating in Venezuela. EFE