Two flight attendants employed by South African Airways (SAA) were arrested last week for allegedly attempting to smuggle about $3 million worth of cocaine into Hong Kong International Airport, in what’s been described “the largest drug trafficking case involving flight crew members” detected by local customs in the past decade.
On Sept. 22 and 24, law enforcement officials busted two SAA workers for the reported drug haul, TravelPulse reports. Almost 40 pounds of cocaine was discovered soon after the unnamed woman and man arrived separately to the airport, touching down from two different flights between Johannesburg and Hong Kong.
The 39-year-old female flight attendant was found with 26 pounds of cocaine on Sunday, and the 35-year-old male flight attendant was caught with nearly 14 pounds of the drug on Tuesday, according to the outlet.
“This is the largest drug trafficking case involving flight crew members detected by customs in the past decade,” a news release issued by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department detailed.
“After preliminary investigation, it is believed that the suspected cocaine seized were from Africa,” it added.
Nabbing the illegal substances in a special operation codenamed “Bullseye,” Hong Kong Customs believes the drugs have a street market value of about $3 million.
SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali has since confirmed the news of the arrests and said that the offenders remain in police custody in Hong Kong.
“We confirm that two of our employees have been arrested in Hong Kong on suspicion of being in possession of drugs, the two employees were operating on two separate flights that were originating from Johannesburg to Hong Kong and were arrested one on arrival the other one following an investigation by customs officials in Hong Kong,” Tlali told The South African in an Oct. 3 interview. “Their matters have been before the courts and they remain in custody at the moment.”
An official for SAA was not immediately available to offer further comment.
Under Hong Kong law, the maximum penalty for drug trafficking can include life imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.