An official of the Customs and Excise Administration of Madrid, during the inspection of the seized drug at Barajas airport.
The Government of Bolivia has acknowledged on Tuesday that drug trafficking "has permeated" police officials, customs, airports and the state airline, Boliviana de Aviación (BoA). In the last week, it was learned that members of these institutions allowed 484 kilos of cocaine to be transported to Madrid on a commercial flight on February 12 and, subsequently, prevented the fact from being detected by internal security mechanisms. It is assumed that the beneficiary of this network of complicity within the state was an international drug trafficking organization with tentacles in Bolivia and Spain.
This Tuesday, the three ministers responsible for the state departments involved in the plot of the "drug flight" appeared before the press to try to contain the wave of criticism that had erupted days earlier. The country had been talking for almost a week about a BoA flight last February in which half a ton of drugs had been found. The aircraft of the country's largest commercial airline was parked at Madrid's Adolfo Suárez airport. Two former presidents who lead the opposition from opposite sides, Evo Morales and Carlos Mesa, accused the government of Luis Arce for the case. "The protection of drug trafficking" of Arce's ministers is definitively proven, tweeted Morales, who promoted Arce to the presidency and who is now accused of leading the "internal right" of his party. Mesa asked for the intervention of the entities involved: "The huge shipment of cocaine transported in BOA shows the penetration of drug trafficking in the governments [of the Movement to Socialism, the party of Morales and Arce], and the institutional and political complicity," he wrote.
When the FELCN admits that it knew in February of the shipment of almost half a ton of drugs to Spain and that it verified that complaint in March and only acts in June and makes an operation for television in Viru Viru, the protection of drug trafficking is definitively proven.
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) June 6, 2023
President Arce had also made his concern known and ordered a full clarification of the case. His ministers summoned the press and announced the suspension of a BoA official and another from the Viru Viru airport, located in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, from where the drug shipment left, as well as the rotation of all the police assigned to this airport. According to the ministers, the prosecutor's office would receive all the information it requires. However, it was already known that some of the images from the airport cameras had been deleted some time before to prevent the investigation.
In the images that were obtained, two BoA stevedores are seen breaking the police seal of the container in which the cargo that was to be loaded onto the plane was stored and introducing the twelve boxes in which the drug went. These boxes were added to four others that carried clothes and had been sent by a courier company. According to the cargo manifest, the weight of this shipment should be just over 100 kilos, but BoA admitted without observation almost 500 kilos of overweight. The longshoremen and the owners of the courier company responsible for the shipment, who have a history of drug trafficking, were arrested.
It all started when the Spanish authorities, who were carrying out an operation to detect irregular behavior of the employees of the Barajas airport, found the drug in the 23L hold of an Airbus of the company Wamos, which had operated BOA flight OB776 and arrived on February 12 in Madrid. According to a report obtained by the Bolivian newspaper El Deber, four days later, they requested information from the Bolivian police, without explicitly stating that it was an investigation for drug trafficking. The police unit that coordinates the security of the Viru Viru airport was activated, which requested the security images from those responsible for the airport, but they delivered videos useless for the investigation. A day later, by a new Spanish request, the police of Viru Viru requested images, this time, to BoA, only to discover that those of the moment of the loading of the plane had been erased. The same happened with the images from the customs cameras, which were destroyed much later, on May 31, when the Bolivian public had just learned of the seizure of drugs at the Madrid airport.
The airport police did nothing more to investigate the case, allegedly because they did not know it was drug smuggling. There is controversy over why anti-drug bosses did not act before the discovery of the stash was made public. The policeman in charge of Viru Viru's security on the day of the shipment was arrested. Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo promised there will be many more arrests.
Press reports that have not been officially confirmed suggest that behind this case is a criminal organization with reach in Bolivia and Spain, allegedly led by a Bolivian drug trafficker nicknamed "Colla." They also maintain that the "narco-flight" would have been preceded and followed by other similar operations, also covered by the same network of employees of Bolivian institutions.
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