Members of the crew of a business jet impounded during a drugs raid at an airport in airport near the Franco Swiss border in May are thought to have been complicit in the massive drug trafficking operation, according a report by Corporate Jet Investor.
The crew of the Gulfstream V were said to be part of an international criminal gang involved in smuggling the cocaine, luxury goods and cash, according to the EU law enforcement agency Europol.
“The crew that was confirmed to have a knowledge of the trafficking operation were arrested and kept in custody, subject of on-going judicial investigation,” involving a single aircraft rather than the entire fleet a Europol spokesperson told the corporate aircraft website.
As previously reported, the raid on the jet at EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg in May resulted in one of the largest ever interceptions of cocaine to take place on European soil and the arrest of 16 people in Europe and Asia. More than one ton of cocaine, two million euros in cash and more than 1 million euros worth of luxury goods were seized.
Operation Familia, coordinated by Europol and the US Drug Enforcement Administration, with support from Frontex, targeted an a vast trafficking network, led by a Balkan mafia organisation, that used private planes to transport the drugs from South America to Europe.
The operation mobilized investigative agencies from 14 countries around the world, according to a press release from Europol. They were put on the trail of the network by the Croatian authorities, which began their investigation into suspicious flights in late 2017.
Thirteen other countries, including France Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia, Uruguay, Paraguay and Costa Rica, joined the case and by May 2019, their investigations made it possible to obtain information on a major delivery due to arrive in Europe by private plane from Uruguay.
The plane suspected of transporting the drugs stopped in Nice on May 16, before landing in Basel-Mulhouse airport near the French border with Switzerland and Germany. Following requests for mutual assistance from the European Union, French police put the two airports under surveillance.
On the evening of 16 May, the Swiss police, in close collaboration with the Strasbourg research section, arrested three people in Basel, including one of the heads of the criminal organization. More than 600 kg of 90% pure cocaine are also seized.