Two members of cabin crew working for South African Airways have been arrested in Hong Kong on suspicion of attempting to smuggle cocaine with a street value of nearly USD$3 million (HKD$23 million / R45 million) into the territory. Officials from Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise department launched what appears to be an intelligence-led operation last week which resulted in the seizure of 18.3 kilograms of Cocaine.
The special operation, which was codenamed “Bullseye”, snared the two cabin crew members in what Hong Kong’s customs department is calling it’s largest drug trafficking case involving crew members in the last decade. A spokesperson for the airline confirmed to South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC that two of its crew members had been arrested having worked separate flights from Johannesburg.
“We confirm that two of our employees have been arrested in Hong Kong on suspicion of being in possession of drugs, the two employees were operating on two separate flights that were originating from Johannesburg to Hong Kong and were arrested one on arrival the other one following an investigation by customs officials in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Customs officers seized around 12 kilograms of South African cocaine concealed inside two black plastic bags after stopping the first crew member on arrival at Hong Kong airport last Sunday. Following an investigation, a second crew member was arrested the following day at the airline’s crew hotel located in the Tsim Sha Tsui district.
One of the suspects is a 35-year old man and the second is a 39-year old female crew member. They have both been arrested on suspicion of trafficking a dangerous drug and if found guilty could face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or an HKD$5 million fine.
Officials in Hong Kong say the operation is ongoing – it’s not known whether the authorities are targeting even more crew members working for South Africa’s national airline.