Venezuela arrests five more soldiers over big Air France cocaine haul

Reuters

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela has arrested five more National Guard soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel, in connection with the smuggling of 1.3 tonnes of cocaine on an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris, prosecutors in the South American country said on Tuesday.

Eight National Guard troops have now been arrested following the September 20 drug haul that was valued at as much as 200 million euros ($270 million).

In addition to the lieutenant colonel, two lieutenants and five sergeants are in custody. The Venezuelan attorney general's office said a security guard and baggage handler at Simon Bolivar international airport also were arrested.

The statement from prosecutors did not say what charges the suspects face.

Three Italians and three Britons were arrested in Paris after France's biggest cocaine seizure. Police there said the drugs were in suitcases registered under false names on the flight to Charles de Gaulle airport.

Drug enforcement experts say Venezuela's location on South America's Caribbean and Atlantic seaboards makes it a preferred route for planes and ships carrying Colombian cocaine to the United States and Europe via Central America and Africa.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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