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Arrests made in Air France flight cocaine case

By CNN Staff
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Wed September 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Airline executive, six airline workers, security guard, loading platform supervisor arrested
  • Eight members of the Venezuelan national guard are also in custody
  • 1.3 tons of cocaine traveled in 30 colorful suitcases from Venezuela to France
  • The bags weren't registered to any of the passengers on the flight

(CNN) -- Venezuelan authorities on Wednesday announced additional arrests in connection with a massive shipment of cocaine in an Air France flight from Caracas that landed in Paris.

In a prepared statement, the Venezuelan Attorney General's Office said 17 people have been arrested in the drug trafficking case. The flight originated at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.

An Air France executive in Venezuela, six airline employees, a security guard and a loading platform supervisor are among those arrested. Eight members of the Venezuelan national guard are also in custody and were scheduled to appear in front of a judge Wednesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing.

On September 11, French authorities discovered 1.3 tons of pure cocaine stuffed inside 30 suitcases on the flight. The colorful bags did not match any of the passengers on board, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported.

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The street value of the stash is about 200 million euros, or $270 million.

$2.6 million in cocaine found in British woman's luggage

French authorities didn't publicize the find until Saturday. Venezuela's Public Ministry announced the arrests of three of the national guard members Sunday.

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Authorities worked with Spanish, British and Dutch police on the investigation, BFMTV said.

This case "illustrates the importance of strengthening International cooperation in the fight against traffickers," French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said.

Suspected drug smugglers sail to jail

In Venezuela, authorities promised a swift investigation as soon as the confiscation was announced in Paris. All 17 arrests were made in less than three days.

Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told reporters in Venezuela that authorities think an organized crime group with Italian and British members is responsible for the shipment.

"The suitcases were not taken into the plane through the regular baggage platforms at the airport. We're investigating how the drug (shipment) got to the airport," he said.

CNN's Rafael Romo, Holly Yan, Christabelle Fombu and Nelson Quinones contributed to this report.

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