In the first case of its kind in Belgium, police earlier this week discovered 1.3 tonnes of cocaine intended for trafficking to Brussels Airport by private jet.
The Gulfstream IV flew on Monday evening from Malaga in Spain to Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International airport in eastern Brazil. Brazilian police were warned that the plane would be carrying cocaine when it departed again on Wednesday with Brussels Airport as destination.
Next day the Brazilian police boarded the plane and asked one elderly passenger to open his suitcase. It was found to be stuffed full of white powder, just like 24 other suitcases on the plane. Each was filled with 50 packages of cocaine, 1.3 tonnes in total, with an estimated street value of €65 million.
The man who was caught is reported to be a Spanish national with a passport issued in Belgium, who was previously involved in companies in the Liege area that went bankrupt. However he has no previous history of drugs trafficking or dealing.
The owner of the chartered plane, the Turkish company ACM Air, confirmed that the aircraft had been booked to fly from Brazil to Brussels. That was confirmed as the destination by Brazilian police.
“This is a first for Belgium,” said Marc Vancoillie of the Serious and Organized Crime section of the federal police.
“It is the first time such a load of drugs has been discovered on board a private jet. That has never happened before in our country, nor on a flight with a private jet that was en route to our country.”
According to some sources, however, private jets are rarely subjected to serious scrutiny at airports, which might affect the figures somewhat.
“But this is not coming at us completely out of the blue,” said Vancoillie. “We have already taken this risk into account. Criminal organisations are inventive. When so many catches are happening in the seaports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, they are looking for alternatives,” he said.
“Drug seizures have been taking place on cargo and scheduled flights for some time. And we know that private jets have long been used to smuggle cocaine within South America from the production countries to the transit countries, where the drugs are then put on a ship to Europe. And just like with the cocaine that arrives here in the port of Antwerp, the question is also whether the drugs on board the private jet were destined for Belgium or had another destination.”