SOUTH AFRICA / 21 JANUARY 2009, 11:18AM /
By Daily News Reporter and Sapa-AFP
The entire flight and cabin crew of a South African Airways flight, including the pilot, have been arrested in London after customs officers seized three bags containing 50kg of dagga.
The drugs, worth R2,1-million were found by officers of the UK Borders Agency, said a spokesperson for British Revenue and Customs at Heathrow, Bob Gaiger. He said those arrested were being held at the customs offices.
The drugs were found in three pieces of baggage allegedly belonging to one or more of the flight crew.
An SAA spokesperson was unable to confirm to whom the luggage belonged, but the flight operator was co-operating with UK authorities and an investigation in Johannesburg, involving SAA Aviation Security and the SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit, is also under way, said Robyn Chalmers, head of group corporate affairs at SAA.
She confirmed that the SAA crew members of flight SA234 from Johannesburg to London were detained by British customs after the bags were found with contraband.
The plane landed at London’s main airport at 8am on Tuesday.
“When the crew was passing through a customs clearance point … the officers found a quantity of cannabis in three suitcases,” said Gaiger. “As a result of that the entire crew of the plane … was arrested and they’re now being held in custody and being interviewed by (customs),” he added.
He confirmed that the pilot was also among those detained.
Chalmers said SAA was working with UK officials, and that an investigation had also been launched in Johannesburg.
The crew members have been provided with legal representation in UK, said Chalmers
She said the crew was expected to be released later on Wednesday morning and that SAA would continue to closely monitor the situation.
The crew would return to South Africa as soon as the investigations were over, but that that also depended on the conditions of their release.
She added that this had not affected passengers or flight plans.
Gaiger said: “Interviews will be taking place and will probably go into tomorrow (Thursday), and then we will decide whether we are going to charge anyone, or release some or all, on bail if necessary.
“Revenue Services, together with the Borders Agency, play a vital role in the fight to prevent illegal drugs from entering the UK and in protecting our communities from the violence and corruption that always accompany this hideous trade,” he said.
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)