A Mexican airplane that was forced to land and destroyed in Venezuela on Nov. 4 was being used by the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of Mexico's leading newspapers said Monday.

The plane, a twin-engine Hawker 25, was forced to land in a part of Venezuela near the border with Colombia for not having received authorization to fly into Venezuelan airspace.

Once on the ground, the occupants of the plane fled and the aircraft was set on fire. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirmed that the plane was carrying a shipment of cocaine.

The plane had been bought three weeks ago by Manuel Eduardo Rodriguez, reputed chief money launderer for the Sinaloa cartel, Reforma daily said Monday, citing official sources and judicial documents.

The criminal group is headed by fugitive Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the most-wanted drug trafficker in Mexico and the United States.

Mexican authorities had reported earlier that the two pilots on board the plane gave false identities when they took off from Queretaro, Mexico, bound for the Caribbean island of Bonaire.

Four of the five passengers disembarked at Bonaire, while the fifth was still aboard when the plane took off again four hours later, headed for La Ceiba, Honduras.

Reforma said one of the five passengers was Rodriguez, although it is not known if he disembarked elsewhere before it was forced down and destroyed in Venezuela.

The four passengers who got off at Bonaire returned to Mexico and were questioned by prosecutors, but no charges were filed against them. EFE