Brazilian, Colombian arrested after landing cocaine-laden aircraft at Mahdia
– pilot tells Police aircraft ran out of fuel
Matheus Vinicius Tontes Alberto, 23, a Brazilian national, and Rodrigues Canon Dandes Estiven, 43, a Colombian national, were on Sunday arrested after landing a light single-engine aircraft at the Mahdia Airstrip, Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni).
Guyana Times understands that the aircraft landed about 15:00h without the necessary permission and clearance from the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). A source told this publication that the aircraft is a Cessna 172 with a fake registration number (N5470Z).
Based on the registration number, the plane is privately owned by an individual out of Missouri, USA. When contacted, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum explained that on the day in question, Police ranks were conducting duties at the Mahdia Airstrip when the two-seat single-engine airplane landed.
As the plane came to a halt, the Police intercepted same and realised that the pilot and co-pilot were foreign nationals. They were questioned during which time one of them reportedly stated that they were heading to another location, but the aircraft ran out of fuel and as such, they landed.
Further, a search was conducted in the aircraft during which 10 parcels were found with suspected cocaine. On the parcels had the markings “King Coco 30”.
This, the Crime Chief explained, is a trademark used by smugglers as a drop-off destination/individual. A further search unearthed a white salt bag with suspected cannabis. In addition, two Global Positioning Systems (GPS), one satellite phone, one radio set and two cellphones were found in the aircraft.
Blanhum told Guyana Times that after receiving reports about the illegal aircraft, a team of investigators from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) travelled to the location to launch an investigation.
The aircraft and its contents were then taken to the Eugene F Correia Airport and then to the CID Headquarters where the men were being questioned. Up to press time, the cocaine and cannabis were still to be weighed, but a well-placed source estimated the cocaine to be between 300 kilograms and 350 kilograms.
More so, this newspaper was told that the co-pilot is allegedly a serving Brazilian law enforcement officer.
Back in November 2021, a foreign pilot and his co-pilot were arrested in Mahdia after they landed at an airstrip in the area.
Reports are that the men – a Colombian and a Venezuelan – landed in a twin-engine Piper Seneca plane. Following their detention at the Mahdia Police Station, several personal items, along with a GPS, were seized by Police.
In June of that year, another aircraft was seen circling the Bissaruni trail (12 miles east of Kwakwani), Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) and subsequently landed, but when it was found, it had been completely burnt.
Examinations identified no illicit drugs or burnt bodies on board. Also in June of that year, another aircraft was seen flying over southern Guyana.
Attempts were made by the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to intercept it, but the aircraft managed to land in Kaaimangrasie, Suriname.
Surinamese officials were alerted and managed to arrive on site and subsequently seized more than 400 kilos of cocaine.
In May, Guyanese authorities intercepted an aircraft carrying 450 kilos of cocaine near the Indigenous village of Orealla.
The two occupants of the aircraft claimed to be on their way to Suriname to deliver a shipment of magnesium. However, the cargo turned out to be cocaine. Both men have since been charged in Guyana for narcotics trafficking.