|Newspaper Says Peru Plane Hijacked to Ship Drugs|
LIMA – A modern light plane that went missing last Thursday with nine people on board was hijacked by drug traffickers who used it to fly 500 kilos (1,100 lbs.) of drugs out of the country, the Lima daily El Comercio said Saturday.
According to the newspaper article, police intelligence officials said that a criminal gang had been plotting since last May to steal an aircraft big enough to transport 500 kilos (1,100 lbs.) of cocaine hydrochloride from “some point” in the jungles of the Huallaga Valley.
To do so, the report said, they picked the modern Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft of the Aerodiana company, which provides tourist flights over the famous Nazca lines and which has not yet been located.
Nonetheless, the same daily cited a statement by Gen. Marlon Savitzky, chief of the Huallaga police, who dismissed the possibility that the aircraft had landed in the Huallaga Valley.
The police chief said there are no hidden airstrips left in the area, since they were all destroyed as part of the war on drugs.
The Aerodiana business manager, Monica Camacho, told the daily that the company has received no official information about the missing plane.
“We have no information that the plane was used to fly drugs out of the Huallaga Valley. Nor have we been told that Cessna has determined where the plane is located. It is presumed to be somewhere on the Brazil-Bolivia border, but we know nothing more,” she said.
The daily confirmed that police have already identified two of the seven passengers who boarded the plane with fake IDs and who have records of drug trafficking.
A prosecutor has launched an investigation with the hypothesis of an aircraft stolen, a pilot and copilot kidnapped, and identity documents forged for seven citizens who posed as passengers on the plane.
Meanwhile, at the Maria Reiche airfield in Nazca, security measures and the checking of passengers were intensified, though operations went on as usual.
The aircraft was supposed to return to the Nazca airfield at 8:15 a.m. (1315 GMT) on Thursday but it never showed up, sparking a search that up to now has yielded no results.
The airplane’s disappearance has led to numerous theories about what happened to it, with the daily La Razon even suggesting on Saturday that it was hijacked by terrorists to fly out of the country one “Comrade Artemio,” the only leader of the Shining Path terrorist group still on the loose.
The daily, which cites “military intelligence sources” but at the same time says they have not been confirmed by any official source, said that the plane landed on an airstrip hidden in the jungle to pick up Artemio and then take him to somewhere in Bolivia.