Venezuela arrests 22 over cocaine in plane to Paris

Manuel Valls speaks at a news conference on 21 September, 2013 French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the seizure was a "fine victory"

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The Venezuelan authorities have now arrested 22 people in connection to a massive cocaine haul found on an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris.

Eight members of the National Guard and nine Air France and airport staff have been detained on drug charges.

The guards were in charge of security at Caracas airport, where 31 suitcases were smuggled on to the plane.

About 1.3 tonnes of cocaine were seized at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport earlier this month.

The members of the National Guard and nine of the civilians were charged by a court of conspiracy and "aggravated illicit trafficking of narcotic and psychotropic substances."

But another five civilian suspects have not yet appeared before the court.

The seizure was one of the biggest ever to be made on French territory

The seizure - with a street value of $270m (£167m) - was one of the biggest ever to be made on French territory.

Air France said it was investigating whether there was any complicity within the company.

The drugs had been destined for the 'Ndrangheta, the Italian mafia based in Calabria that controls some 80% of all cocaine imports into Europe, French officials said.

Six people have already been arrested in France on suspicion of belonging to the smuggling ring. Three of them were from Britain, while the other three were from Italy.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says Venezuela does not produce sizeable quantities of cocaine, but it has become a transit country for cocaine from Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, which is shipped to the United States and Europe.

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