Wednesday May 17, 2017
ISLAMABAD/LONDON: Customs officials investigating the discovery of narcotics aboard a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight in London believe the drugs were inserted into the plane while it was parked in Karachi on May 8.
Sources in the Pakistan Customs said the plane was with PIA’s maintenance department in Karachi for around 20 hours on May 8, following which it flew to Lahore, Islamabad and then London on May 16.
Customs investigators have discovered that the narcotics were also hidden in compartments in the plane’s roof — a time-consuming process which could only have been performed when the plane was stationary for a long time.
Talking to media in Islamabad, the Prime Minister’s Aviation Adviser Sardar Mehtab Abbasi said there has yet been no official word from the UK authorities on the issue.
“This is not an issue of PIA but of the international image of Pakistan, which has been tarnished due to this incident,” he stated.
He said in his statement that they will not conceal any facts, adding that, “we will get to the bottom of the issue and use it to further clean our house”.
Meanwhile, PIA’s UK station manager Sajidullah Khan has told Geo News that they have not been notified by the UK authorities about the discovery of heroin on the PIA plane. “We are getting news only from the media,” he said.
Quoting UK immigration authorities, he also informed that the 12 PIA crew members will get their passports back today after which they will leave for Pakistan.
A spokesman of the Pakistan High Commission in London told Geo News that they are in touch with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office over the incident. “We have been informed that local authorities are investigating the matter and further findings will be shared with us when available,” the spokesperson stated.
UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Tuesday that its “officers are investigating following the seizure of a quantity of heroin found by Border Force officers onboard a flight from Pakistan at Heathrow on Monday, May 15”.
According to UK Border Agency sources, information had been received from Pakistan that there were narcotics onboard the Islamabad-London flight. There was suspicion that the crew might be involved and that narcotics were hidden in different panels and areas of the plane.
The NCA on being approached by Geo News said the agency “will not be giving a running commentary of its investigation and we do not comment on intelligence matters” but said that it can confirm certain information about the drug bust.
The agency’s spokesman confirmed that “a quantity of heroin, a class A prohibited drug under UK law, was found concealed within the aircraft by Border Force officers”.
He added that he “we do expect that investigation to have an international element”.
We do not routinely confirm or deny the identity of people under investigation, however at no point were the crew under arrest, nor were they questioned by NCA officers, the spokesman clarified.
Sources have informed Geo News that only one official of the customs department conducted the checking of the plane, and without sniffer dogs, as the customs staff was participating in a training held at the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) Academy.
As per standard procedure, at least two sniffing dogs by customs and ANF are used to for the checking of a plane before providing it a clearance. However, no sniffing dogs from either department were used for the purpose of checking.
ANF refused to comment on the matter while the customs department confirmed that no sniffer dogs were used for checking the plane and that its staff was participating in the training in ANF academy.