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MEXICO: Officers allegedly run airport cocaine ring, report says

October 3, 2011 |  8:07 pm

Policia federal pgr reforma

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Federal police officers are alleged to run a cocaine-trafficking ring through Mexico City's international airport involving Aeromexico flight attendants and private security personnel, a newspaper report said Monday.

The operation has come to be informally known as the "galley cartel," in reference to passenger jet kitchens.

The allegation suggests there is active smuggling at the airport with the help of corrupt security officials and airline employees. In August, an Aeromexico copilot was arrested in Madrid on suspicion of attempting to smuggle 92 pounds of cocaine in his luggage.  

According to the news report, two former screeners working for a private security company at the airport told investigators that federal police officers paid them $1,000 each time they permitted luggage with cocaine or cash to pass through inspection at Terminal 2 of Benito Juarez International Airport. The allegation was reported by the daily Reforma, citing a federal investigation not yet made public (link in Spanish).

The two suspects were questioned in connection with a December incident in which three Aeromexico flight attendants were arrested at Madrid's Barajas airport after arriving with about 300 pounds of cocaine in their luggage. The screeners, Jaime Cesar Valencia and Josafat Jonathan Guzman, said they let drugs flow through Terminal 2 in the service of "high-level officials, diplomats and celebrities," Reforma reported, without elaborating.

Investigators have reportedly been referring to the cocaine smuggling operation at Terminal 2 as the "galley cartel" or the White Angels. Late Monday, no response to the report emerged from the federal police, the federal prosecutor's office, Aeromexico or the airport (links in Spanish).

Reforma reported that no arrests have been made in connection to the allegations. Prosecutors produced a composite sketch of a federal police officer who may have paid for cocaine smuggling at the airport, but have no identification, the newspaper said.

-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: A sketch of a Mexico federal police officer who may have aided cocaine smuggling at Mexico City's international airport. Credit: Reforma

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