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UK releases SAA crew without charge

Written by Mail&Gaurdian Online on 21 January 2009.

Three SAA pilots and 12 cabin crew detained by the British authorities for alleged drug possession were released without being charged, the national carrier said on Wednesday.

South African Airways (SAA) spokesperson Robyn Chalmers said the 15 employees were released on Wednesday morning and the airline was arranging to get them back to South Africa. The group would not be suspended but would be interviewed by SAA on their return to the country.

"They haven't been suspended ... they will come back and SAA will interview them before any course of action is decided upon," Chalmers said in a statement.

"SAA is cooperating fully with UK authorities. The airline has also launched an investigation into this matter involving SAA Aviation Security and the SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit. SAA has a zero-tolerance approach towards the use of the airline's services for any criminal activity."

Meanwhile, the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa), in response to the incident, on Wednesday said: "At all our airports, airline crews and pilots are screened and processed like any other passenger upon departure.

"At Cape Town and OR Tambo we have a dedicated check point for all airport staff [Acsa and non-Acsa) including airline crews and pilots. They are subjected to the same screening procedures as passengers."

However, it said, SAA has a separate crew centre with its own screening area at OR Tambo that was managed and run by the airline.

The 15 SAA staffers were arrested at London's Heathrow Airport on Tuesday after the UK Border Agency found 50kg of dagga in bags belonging to the crew.

The agency said the dagga, valued at about R2,1-million, was discovered in three pieces of baggage on SAA flight SA234 from Johannesburg on arrival at 8am.

Later reports said four kilograms of cocaine worth £160 000 had also been found.

Bob Gaiger, spokesperson for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs at Heathrow, said those arrested were being held in custody and questioned.


January 21, 2009

NOTE FROM WEBSITE AUTHORS:

It appears that all but one of the SAA Crew are in fact innocent, thanks to the speedy manner in which SAA and the UK authorities handled this situation... and this is how it SHOULD be!

We are in contact with many South African Citizens who have been detained in foreign countries on similar charges. Several are innocent, however the SA Foreign Office and SA Embassy have blatantly refused to engage and assist with other cases.


In cases where Fair Trials of London have found discrepencies in Court Transcripts, where legal representation has been denied, where inhumanity and injustice has been forced upon South African citizens the Foreign Office has REFUSED TO INTERVENE!!!   
So why now??

The SAA Crew were released on bail and sent back to South Africa to be investigated and tried under South African Law!

This is in DIRECT CONTRADICTION OF THE SUPPOSED POLICIES OF THE SA FOREIGN OFFICE!     

We do sympathise with the volitile situation that airline employees might face regarding illicit trafficking by other crew members HOWEVER, we would like to know WHY the SAA Crew received preferential treatment in this matter. There has been NO intervention from the South African authorities for any one of the other 865 South Africans detained abroad.

This must change!   (newspaper articles below)