In what read like a Hollywood movie script a small 20 seater Cessna aircraft dramatically landed at the Freetown International Airport under cover of darkness at around 3am Sunday morning.
The pilots and other occupants of the aircraft are reported to have jumped into a waiting vehicle which had crashed through the gate at the far end of the perimeter fencing and driven straight to the far end of the airport along where abandoned aircrafts are packed. They apparently exited the same way, leaving behind 5 rifles which were found to be 4 AK-47s and 1 AK-58 with around 369 rounds of ammunition. These were found in the bush close by the gate.
When searched, the aircraft was found to contain 24 cartons of which each carton contained 25 packets of a white substance believed to be cocaine, 35 white Jerry cans (10 gallon capacity), 2 Motorola phones, a Global Positioning System, first aid kit, and a quantity of fire extinguishers.
Airport Authority officials disclosed that the aircraft had three registrations, and possibly came from Venezuela. On the aircraft itself there were two different registration marks on either side. On the left side of the aircraft was YV 1647 and on the right side was SQ 2261.
The drama did not end there. The tail fin of the aircraft carried the Red Cross sign.
The 24 cartons are reported to have weighed around 725kilos with an estimated street value of around $60 million.
President Koroma reportedly inspected the scene when he arrived from The Gambia. They say he was visibly angry and ordered that the guns be placed in his convoy of vehicles.
At the airport on Sunday afternoon Transport and Aviation Minister Kemoh Sesay said that he “flew over here under emergency circumstances that an irregular aircraft with irregular commodities in the aircraft” adding that as Minister his business is to make sure that “the irregular aircraft is apprehended” and it is now left with the Office of National Security (ONS) and the Police to do their job.
Later the cocaine was then offloaded from the aircraft to a waiting military vehicle and the airport ambulance and taken to the UN facility (MOVCON) where they were weighed and then placed onboard a UN flight to Freetown. Unconfirmed reports say that orders had been given for the drugs to be kept in the custody of the UN police team and the IMATT.
At the airport, the Assistant Inspector General of Police in-charge of Crime Services Francis Munu said that “6 people are being interrogated in respect of this incident and we are questioning them to see whether they have any involvement in the whole affair.”
Questioned further AIG Munu disclosed that the 6 people are “The Head of the Police here (Lungi) the General Manager, the Head of the control tower and another Police Officer for failing to take pre-emptive measures to get the culprits arrested” adding “because we understand they had information regarding the unauthorized landing at least some few hours before the aircraft landed.”
A little later it was reported that a dark metallic green Tacoma pick-up truck with registration ADJ-105 had been intercepted at Gbere Junction (approx. 50 miles) by Police and a Guinea Bissau national arrested. It was further reported that a white man who was also in the vehicle jumped down and fled into the bush.
A further 7 foreign nationals –Mexicans and Colombians – were also arrested in Port Loko. By Kelvin Lewis