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U.S. Customs seizes Haitian planes in South Florida drug bust

image

June 27, 2000
Web posted at: 2:39 a.m. EDT (0639 GMT)

MIAMI (CNN) -- Federal agents seized two planes, more than 250 pounds of cocaine and arrested seven people authorities believe were involved in smuggling drugs and illegal aliens from Haiti to Florida, the U.S. Customs Service said Monday.

Officials said smugglers had been using the aircraft to fly into South Florida for more than a year.

Agents had watched Air de Ayiti operation since March, on suspicion that it was smuggling cocaine and illegal immigrants by landing after-hours at airports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, authorities said.

  MESSAGE BOARD
 

A Customs plane followed an Air de Ayiti Cessna when it left Nassau in the Bahamas on Saturday.

Agents moved in when it landed at Miami's Opa-Locka Airport, arresting the pilot, a passenger and the passenger's wife, who was waiting to meet him. Four other people were arrested on Sunday and a second Air de Ayiti plane was seized at a Fort Lauderdale airport.

Four suitcases containing cocaine worth $2.3 million also were seized.

"The weekend events are very significant. It is concrete evidence (that) drugs cartels are utilizing the Caribbean for air smuggling operations in addition to go-fast boats and freighters arriving from the Bahamas and Haiti," Frank Figueroa, the chief Customs agent in Miami, said in a statement.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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