How Did So Much Cocaine Wind Up On This Flight?

A couple of passengers departing Caracas, Venezuela for Paris, France checked 31 articles of luggage on the flight, all of which were tagged under false names. Upon investigation, authorities discovered that the bags were filled with 2,866 pounds of pure cocaine. Suspicions were apparently only raised when the passengers who checked the bags didn’t actually board the plane. The flight date was on 9/11 no less, a date we all know for extra precautions at airports, at least in the United States. The unaccompanied bags of cocaine were eventually detained at the Charles De Gaulle airport.Several people have been arrested in France regarding the incident — three are Italian and three are British. Venezuelan authorities have arrested three officers of the National Guard and have said that they expect more arrests to come. According to Minister Miguel Rodriguez, Venezuelan authorities are also suspicious of the airline workers involved in this flight. While we don’t have any further details regarding just how this much cocaine wound up on this plane, it’s pretty clear that with National Guard members and possibly airline workers aiding in the transport of the drugs, a massive coverup and/or coercion may have been present. Most drug rings wouldn’t risk this much cocaine on a single flight unless they felt success was inevitable, a presumption that is contingent on corruption.

$270 Million Worth of Cocaine Found on France Flight

Intense National Geographic Series, ‘Locked Up Abroad,’ Documents Inept Travelers

muleLast week’s arrest of diaper-wearing cocaine smugglers at JFK proved more laughable than horrifying to those not directly involved. Drug busts are in the media so often, we rarely pay attention to them. They’re certainly not something I care about.

Yet, I’ve recently become obsessed with a National Geographic show called “Locked Up Abroad.” I don’t recall hearing about this harrowing documentary series when it first aired in 2007, but it caught my eye about a month ago, during a late-night Netflix bender. It’s now in its sixth season on the National Geographic Channel.

Each episode profiles one or two subjects, most of whom have been imprisoned in developing nations. While a few episodes detail hostage and other kidnapping situations (Warning: if you’re at all easily disturbed, please don’t watch … nightmares are almost guaranteed), most involve drug smuggling gone awry.

As a die-hard adventure traveler, I find “Locked Up Abroad” absorbing (that’s not an intentional diaper pun) because it’s a real-life dramatization of my worst fears. As a solo female wanderer, I can’t help but worry sometimes about kidnapping or becoming an inadvertent drug mule, no matter how self-aware I try to be. Many of the episodes on “Locked Up Abroad,” however, involve people with the intellect of dead hamsters, and it’s hard to feel much in the way of empathy, given their greed and gullibility.Still, it’s hard to resist a good prison story, especially when it involves South America or Bangladesh, and pasty, bespectacled English blokes or naive teenage girls from small-town Texas. The psychology behind why these people take such enormous risks, and how they manage to survive in inhospitable and downright inhumane conditions is fascinating.

Perhaps I’ve just watched “Midnight Express,” “Brokedown Palace,” and “Return to Paradise” one too many times, but I’ve often wondered how I’d fare in such a situation, and I hope I never have to find out. But documentaries like “Locked Up Abroad” are more than just sensationalism. They’re a window into our desperate, greedy, grubby little souls, as well as testimony to the will to survive.

For some reason, YouTube and National Geographic Channel video links are disabled or broken, so if you want to check out some footage, click here.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Svadilfari]

Video of the Day: Smuggling marijuana from Amersterdam

Mr. Show with Bob and David is, arguably, the greatest sketch comedy show ever. When they took on the nerve-wracking experience of trying to smuggle marijuana back from Amsterdam, it was hilarious. While the TSA has made the airport experience stressful even if you aren’t doing anything illegal, this scene hysterically captures what happens when backpackers try their hand at something that professional drug smugglers struggle to do: act natural.

Of course, we at Gadling neither condone nor recommend drug smuggling. Furthermore, there is certainly more to do in Amsterdam than just smoking pot (not to mention that, pretty soon, tourists might not even have access to weed in Holland). However, this clip had us laughing as hard as we did when it first aired years ago. Travel safely and always be sure to remember where you packed your shampoo!

If you have a great travel video that you think we might enjoy, share the link in a comment below. We could feature it as our next Video of the Day!

Breaking: More drugs found on cruise ship

drugs found on cruise shipUPDATE: Less than a month ago we told you about the cruise line crew accused of smuggling drugs into the Port of Baltimore. Now we have learned that authorities found more drugs on the same ship.

When U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents boarded Royal Caribbean International’s Enchantment of the Seas Tuesday, they had good reason. Last month agents found 700 grams of heroin and 300 grams of cocaine hidden in the waistband and shoes of the crew member, The drugs had been picked up from a Jamaican man in the Dominican Republic, brought on to the ship, to be sold once they reached the United States.

“If we already encountered an incident where drugs were discovered on the ship, we’re more than likely going to take another look at the vessel further down the road,” Steve Sapp, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Baltimore Sun.

In this discovery, $94,000 worth of cocaine was found wrapped in duct tape by a drug-sniffing dog in a common area of the ship, accessible by any crew member. No arrests have been made.

“It could be just about anybody,” Sapp said. “It would be really difficult for us to bring in everyone for an interview.”

This is not good news for Royal Caribbean or the cruise industry. The ongoing investigation aboard Enchantment of the Seas indicates that Federal authorities are beginning to target cruise ships for drug smuggling operations. Frequently visiting Caribbean islands where drugs are plentiful and easily distributed, the supply side of smuggling has minimal risk. Crew members with access to all areas of ships can find plenty of places to hide the contraband.

Last week’s raid on MSC Cruises Poesia and the would-be high times Jam Fest cruise added a different but similar focus, targeting passengers.

Royal Caribbean, along with other cruise lines, maintains a zero tolerance policy for illegal drugs on their ships. Look for TSA-like security precautions on cruise ships in the near future. This is inevitable. The cruise industry has always been a model for insuring the safety and security of passengers and crew at sea. This recent news, combined with their intense ongoing commitment to safety and security will bring new procedures.

It’s just a matter of which line will be first.

Flickr photo by anythiene

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Breaking: Cruise Line crew accused of smuggling drugs

cruise line drugsIt looks like more than good times and frosty umbrella drinks were on board Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas earlier this month as crew members were caught red-handed by US officials trying to smuggle heroin and cocaine into Baltimore.

The Baltimore Sun reports a criminal complaint filed by U.S. officials on Tuesday alleges three employees of the cruise line had bought the drugs in the Dominican Republic for resale in the U.S.

Apparently the three crew members had planned on selling those drugs at a local Wal-Mart near the cruise terminal but Customs officials were tipped off by a ship security officer for Royal Caribbean.

According to documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun, agents said they found 700 grams of heroin and 300 grams of cocaine hidden in the waistband and shoes of the crew member, The drugs had been picked up from a Jamaican man in the Dominican Republic, brought on to the ship, to be sold once they reached the United States.

It’s not the most unusual method of smuggling we’ve heard of with Gadling reporting back in November when a man caught with drugs tied to his genitals faces five years in jail, but it makes me wonder why bringing a bottle of wine in my luggage is such a big deal.

Flickr photo by mastersellerphotos