Airport officials in Punta Cana International Airport detained two Dominican citizens who were found carrying over 50 kilograms of presumed drugs en route to Europe. The massive find is a result of enhanced anti-drug efforts in Dominican airports, involving various law enforcement agencies.
Anti-drug officers and personnel from the Dominican Republic intelligence agency were carrying out a routine inspection when they came across suspicious luggage which was found to contain 50 pouches of suspected drugs. The illicit substance was concealed in two suitcases headed to Brussels, a highly lucrative route for drug traffickers. The operation was led by the National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD), with support from the country’s highly specialized airport security agency.
The news comes as the Dominican Republic has stepped up anti-drug efforts in the country’s main airports and ports in recent months. In the latest incident, anti-drug officials who were accompanied by sniffer dogs were alerted to the presence of a suspicious substance in two suitcases. Upon detecting the unusual contents, officers proceeded to follow protocol and seized the contents, which will undergo further testing to confirm the exact type and purity of the drug at the National Foresncics Office.
Over 50 kilograms of the illegal substance – presumably cocaine – was seized, with a street value reaching millions of dollars. The drugs were on their way to Belgium, where they would have been smuggled further into the highly lucrative European market. Luckily, officials were able to stop the drugs from reaching their destination, and have opened up an investigation into the case.
Authorities then identified the owners of the two suitcases – one man and one woman – who have been detained for investigation. The suspects are Dominican nationals and were en route to Brussels when they were detained by police officers. If found guilty of trafficking drugs, they will face harsh penalties under Dominican law. In a statement, authorities said that “the detained individuals, pending identification, are being transferred to the Public Attorney of Altagracia province to apply penal measures under law 50-88.”
In recent months, the Dominican Republic has prevented over 40 cases of drug smuggling through the country’s main airports and ports. As a result, in July alone, over 900 flights originating from the capital’s Las Américas International Airport were delayed. Airport officials have said that rigorous baggage inspections by Dominican authorities are partially to blame for the tardy departures.
Punta Cana International Airport is the main point of entry for most tourists headed to vacation in the Dominican Republic. In July this year, it recorded over 800,000 passengers, a monthly record, and this summer has been especially busy for the airport. Despite the high risk, drug traffickers often target the well-connected airport to smuggle drugs to the highly lucrative North American, European, and South American markets.
Although the seizure is a significant victory for anti-drug police, it’s far from the only drug-related confiscation this year at Punta Cana Airport. Earlier this year in March, police officers detained the crew of a Canadian charter airline that was found carrying a whopping 200 kilograms of cocaine.
The detention of most of the crew members signaled Dominican authorities’ commitment to stopping all sources of drug trafficking, even when foreign nationals are involved. In another similar case, a 24-year-old Canadian citizen was arrested in April after he was found carrying 2.5 kilograms of cocaine.
Under Dominican Republic law, those found guilty of carrying drugs could face between five to twenty years in prison as well as fines of up to 250,000 Dominican pesos.
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