Huge Drug Bust in France Yields 1.3 Tons of Cocaine in Suitcases

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Isaac Urrutia / REUTERS

Venezuelan National Guard personnel stand guard during the presentation of confiscated cocaine to the media in Maracaibo.

Three members of the Venezuelan National Guard were arrested in connection with the 1.3 tons of cocaine found on an Air France jet that flew from Caracas to Paris, officials said on Saturday. The bust was made Sept. 11.

The drugs were smuggled in 30 suitcases and stashed and registered under phony names that were not listed among passengers on the flight going to Charles DeGaulle Airport. Air France officials are still trying to determine how the drugs — with a possible street value of more than $270 million — got onto the airplane. “This marks the biggest seizure of cocaine ever made in mainland France as part of a judicial investigation,” French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters.

U.S. drug enforcement officials have accused Venezuela of being lax in cracking down on drug smuggling and Caracas has long been a major hub. A report from the White House fingers Venezuela, Myanmar, and Bolivia for ignoring illicit drug operations.

Along with the Venezuelan national guard officials, six others — three Italian nationals and three British nationals — were also detained.