Turkish Private Jet Seized In Brazil With 1,300 Kilos Of Cocaine

Turkish Private Jet Seized In Brazil With 1,300 Kilos Of Cocaine

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Drugs are smuggled around the world on a daily basis in a variety of ways, though this has to be one of the more drastic aviation-related drug busts we’ve seen in a while.

Private jet carries 24 suitcases with cocaine

On Wednesday, August 4, 2021, Brazilian federal police seized a Turkish private jet that was carrying 1,304 kilomgrams of cocaine. Here’s what we know so far:

  • The plane involved in the incident was a 34-year-old Gulfstream IV, with the registration code TC-GVA; the plane was owned by charter operator ACM Airlines, and back in the day this exact plane used to carry the Turkish prime minister
  • The plane flew from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Malaga, Spain, on August 2, and from Malaga to Fortaleza, Brazil, on August 3 (this was presumably just to position the plane)
  • On the morning of August 4 the plane picked up a Spanish national in Fortaleza, who continued with the plane to Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
  • From there the plane was supposed to start its journey back across the Atlantic, with the destination being Brussels; the plane was once again traveling through Fortaleza (presumably for refueling), where customs had to be cleared
  • During a customs inspection, it was found that the plane had 24 suitcases carrying a total of 1,304 kilograms (~2,875 pounds) of cocaine
  • The suitcases allegedly belonged to the Spanish passenger, who was arrested, along with the captain

Perhaps most interesting is the video posted online of the police making this discovery. In the video you can see the captain and passenger being questioned about the bags, before they were opened, and then a test was performed to identify the white substance.

The police interrogated all three Turkish crew members plus the Spanish passenger, and seized the aircraft, cell phones, and documents, for analysis.

While I’m no expert, based on doing some Googling, it looks like a kilogram of cocaine sells for about $15,000 wholesale (and a lot more if broken up and sold in smaller quantities). At the wholesale price, this plane had roughly $20 million worth of cocaine onboard. Wow.

Is there any way the crew didn’t know what was onboard?

In the above video we see the captain acting as if he doesn’t know what’s in the bags. Is he just acting, or did he really not know what was in the suitcases? While I have absolutely no clue the extent to which the charter airline or the pilot were involved or knew what was going on, a couple of things come to mind:

  • Certainly on the surface you’d think a trip like this would arouse some suspicions with authorities — you have a single traveler chartering a private jet one-way, traveling with 24 suitcases
  • The Gulfstream IV has a maximum payload of 3,400 pounds, and there were nearly 2,900 pounds of cocaine; presumably the captain should have suspected something was up, and should have asked some questions if there were 24 suitcases, each weighing ~120 pounds, using up ~85% of the plane’s maximum payload

So yeah, there’s no way to know how much the captain or airline knew. At an absolute minimum, I think the captain should have suspected something was up, when he’s taking someone on a quick trip to Brazil and they travel with that much luggage.

A representative for ACM Airlines (the charter airline that the plane belongs to) had the following to say:

“The relevant customer and his personal items have no connection whatsoever to our company or flight crew, and the inspection of the passenger’s belongings are completely under the authority of the airport.”

Bottom line

A Turkish Gulfstream IV has been seized in Brazil, after it was caught trying to leave the country with 24 suitcases carrying over 1,300 kilograms of cocaine. The only passenger on the plane was a Spanish national, who was trying to transport the shipment to Brussels.

One has to wonder how much the crew and/or charter operator knew. At an absolute minimum the captain had to suspect something, if he wasn’t explicitly involved in it.

What do you make of this incident?

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  1. Murphy

    During the first inspection of the custom agent in plane , the agent asked question to passenger and saw 25 big suitcases in cabin . When the agent get out the plane for calling the custom stuff the pilot ignitiated the engines and roll up the stairs to escape the area but
    the Brasilian Police stopped the plane by pointed their gun to Captain..this is why the captain is suspected to be a part of this dark business.

  2. Wilhelm

    No, the crew would not know what’s on board. It’s the passenger who is responsible for what he/she brings. In shipping, the bill of lading (equivalent to a passenger ticket) would say “said to contain”. I used to work in shipping, and it’s the customer who is responsible for dealing with customs. The shipping line provides a service, as do airlines. They do neither have the capacity, nor the competence, to evaluate every single piece...

    No, the crew would not know what’s on board. It’s the passenger who is responsible for what he/she brings. In shipping, the bill of lading (equivalent to a passenger ticket) would say “said to contain”. I used to work in shipping, and it’s the customer who is responsible for dealing with customs. The shipping line provides a service, as do airlines. They do neither have the capacity, nor the competence, to evaluate every single piece of cargo. There are instances of crew members being involved in smuggling contraband, as is ground & port personnel. However, in this case I’m willing to give the crew and owners of the aircraft the benefit of the doubt.

  3. Nadeen

    Turkey is a huge hub for drugs in Europe and the MiddleEast , I am not surprise ! I believe this is how the Muslim Brotherhood ruling party in Turkey is funding itself these days

  4. Jordan

    Someone was not cut in on the deal! :-)

    Fun fun in the simulation for sure.

  5. DaninMCI

    Midnight Express 2 the sequel? Seems like someone forgot to pay off the Amigos Dos Amigos folks or at least Mr. Lopez. It's a win-win for them. The Turkish didn't pay so they leaked it to the cops. Everyone wins, well except the Turkish of course but that might teach them to stay out of Brazilian drug trafficking.

  6. Regis

    The only surprising fact here is they were caught. Someone forgot to pay the bribe, no doubt about that. Up until recently they were smugling cocaine to Europe aboard a brazilian presidential airplane. Google it. It is an incredible story. The investigation is ongoing but it is believed more than 20 trips were made and the operation involved big honchos in the brazilian air force. The brazilian federal police is definetely not on top of...

    The only surprising fact here is they were caught. Someone forgot to pay the bribe, no doubt about that. Up until recently they were smugling cocaine to Europe aboard a brazilian presidential airplane. Google it. It is an incredible story. The investigation is ongoing but it is believed more than 20 trips were made and the operation involved big honchos in the brazilian air force. The brazilian federal police is definetely not on top of anything in Brazil and not above suspicion. It is an underfunded, stretched to the limit and with corrupt officers like any police force in Brazil.

    1. Jorge Paez

      Makes you wonder if that load will continue on its journey to Europe under a different
      "owner."

  7. Donna

    I agree at a minimum the captain had to suspect drugs and if he didn’t have direct knowledge, should have phoned his company to get advice before going to the refueling stop, certainly knowing that there was a possibility the plane could be inspected. It will be interesting to find out what eventually happens here with the captain.

  8. Jimmy’s Travel Report

    “ it looks like a kilogram of cocaine sells for about $15,000 wholesale (and a lot more if broken up and sold in smaller quantities). At the wholesale price, this plane had roughly $20 million worth of cocaine”

    Talk about markup!

  9. D3kingg

    The pilot always knows. That’s why pilots make good DEA informants.

    1. Albert

      No way the pilots aren't totally vetted by the smugglers before being trusted with cargo that valuable

  10. Luke

    Interesting the plane was in Saudi Arabia. If they were caught with the contents there, would get a free trip straight to chop chop square!

  11. Daniel

    I have flown on a similar GIV throughout South America, but not Brazil.

    The inspections were incredibly serious. I was shocked that we were inspected even when *leaving* countries.

    For example, we were delayed an hour leaving Bogota for approx. 12 military members to inspect every inch of the plane. Oddly, they took photos of EVERYTHING including the microwave, toilet, food, etc.

    We were on a pleasure trip through the Galapagos, Machu...

    I have flown on a similar GIV throughout South America, but not Brazil.

    The inspections were incredibly serious. I was shocked that we were inspected even when *leaving* countries.

    For example, we were delayed an hour leaving Bogota for approx. 12 military members to inspect every inch of the plane. Oddly, they took photos of EVERYTHING including the microwave, toilet, food, etc.

    We were on a pleasure trip through the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, etc. but I am sure as hell never taking anything illegal. The private jet provided absolutely no immunity from scrutiny, and perhaps the opposite.

  12. Santastico

    If there is a place you shouldn’t try to smuggle drug is Brazil. It is well known that people buy cocaine from producing countries nearby and use Brazil as an exit. Brazilian authorities are on top of it and this happens everyday in many airports Brazil. These guys won’t like the life in a Brazilian prison.

    1. Qinxuan Pan

      Tell me more about life in Brazilian prison.

    2. Santastico

      Just watch any documentary about prisons in Latin American countries. Hospitality is not a word you will hear. These guys will regret this stupid decision.

    3. John T

      Why didn't they just pay the "fine" and be on their way??

    4. Santastico

      If you are referring to bribe, think again. There is no bribe for drugs. Good luck with that.

    5. Schar

      this is Brazil you're talking about, there is no bribing federal police when it comes to drugs. They're on top of their game

  13. Eskimo

    These charters are paid to fly, not to question their customers agenda.

    It is the job of the customs agency to do that, just like in this video.

    I feel the authorities are harassing the pilot to get some forced confession under duress here. Try ask the pilot on your next flight what's in your suitcase. Their biggest concern is weight balance.

    1. David

      Exactly. Commercials airlines have a page on what items are prohibited, but airline staff never interrogate you on whether you’re carrying banned substance with you. Airport security (at departure) and customers (on arrival) do that.

  14. INS Vikrant

    Sounds like an amateur operation.

    1. David

      Amateurs don’t smuggle $20+ mil worth of cocaine.

    2. INS Vikrant

      Amado used to bring in 707s filled with yey. 3+ tonnes per load. 5+ planes per trip, multiple trips per week. This is barely 1 tonne.

      Pros don't get caught.

    3. Eskimo

      @INS Vikrant

      So I guess for you, El Chapo is considered an amateur.

Featured Comments Load all 26 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Schar

this is Brazil you're talking about, there is no bribing federal police when it comes to drugs. They're on top of their game

Luke

Interesting the plane was in Saudi Arabia. If they were caught with the contents there, would get a free trip straight to chop chop square!

David

Amateurs don’t smuggle $20+ mil worth of cocaine.

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