Three pilots and three ground crew working for Dutch airline KLM’s cargo division have been released from police detention after spending nearly 10-days in prison on suspicion of attempting to smuggle 87.5 kilos of cocaine out of Argentina. Two other local Argentian employees of Martinair, which is wholly-owned by KLM, remain in detention following a judicial review.
In addition, the Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft operated by Martinair on behalf of KLM remains impounded in Argentina. It’s not known when the authorities might release the multi-million dollar aircraft back to the Dutch carrier.
The plane had arrived into Ezeiza airport near Buenos Aires on 17th January and according to local media reports was destined to fly onto Thailand and Singapore with a live shipment of 49 polo and racehorses, amongst other items. But customs agents apparently became suspicious when they noticed Martinair employees loading items onto the plane in bad weather conditions.
According to the authorities, only a specialist company is allowed to load cargo aircraft when there’s a weather alert at the airport so they went to check out the cargo. Masquerading as boxes of engine oil, the agents soon discovered the cocaine wrapped up in neat boxes.
“We assume it was hidden in the cars of the detained employees,” an unnamed source connected with the case and quoted by Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper said of the investigation.
“Without a doubt in the place of destination, in the Netherlands, there was a complicity to be able to take out the boxes with cocaine without problems,” the source continued.
A Prosecutor, however, today decided that there was not enough evidence to further detain the pilots and three of the ground staff. The two employees who remain in pretrial detention were allegedly seen on CCTV loading the pallets onto the aircraft. They have been charged with attempting to smuggle a narcotic substance.
The three pilots were all Dutch nationals, while the five other Martinair ground staff were locally employed Argentinians.
“KLM and Martinair Cargo are sincerely delighted to confirm that the 3 pilots and 3 ground staff involved in the investigation in Argentina will be released today,” a statement released today by the airline read.
“In connection with the welfare and privacy of all employees involved, we will not make any substantive statements as long as the investigation is ongoing,” the statement continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.