Venezuela Arrests Three Military Officials for Cocaine Smuggling

Monday, 23 Sep 2013 08:24 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Three members of Venezuela's National Guard have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the smuggling of a massive haul of cocaine on an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris, the BBC reported Monday.
 
French border police announced over the weekend that they had found 1.3 tons of cocaine in suitcases on a flight arriving from Caracas earlier this month — one of the biggest drug seizures ever made on French territory.
 
Most of the cocaine was seized at the airport, with the remainder found inside a truck heading from Paris to Luxembourg after arriving from Venezuela.
 
Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said two National Guard sergeants and a lieutenant had been arrested Sunday as part of the investigation, and that more arrests were likely.
 
Six people have already been arrested in France on suspicion of belonging to an international drugs smuggling ring. Three of them are reportedly from Britain, while the other three are from Italy.
 
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the arrests resulted from intelligence sharing between French police and their European colleagues. He said such cooperation is essential because international drug traffickers were constantly developing new strategies to evade detection.
 
Venezuela’s cooperation with international drug enforcement efforts has become the subject of heated debate with Washington.
 
President Barack Obama on Sept. 13 designated Venezuela (along with Burma and Bolivia) as countries “that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to make substantial efforts to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements,” Reuters reported.
 
The three nations appeared on a list of more than 20 “major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries” that was released by the White House earlier this month.
 
Venezuelan officials strongly dispute the allegations and say that since the start of the year they have arrested more than 6,400 for trafficking and seized almost 80,000 pounds of various drugs.

Reuters News Agency Contributed to This Report

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