U.S. customs officers intercepted a Venezuela–bound private jet in south Florida loaded with 82 firearms, including a sniper rifle, plus 63,000 rounds of ammunition, U.S. authorities said Tuesday.
Two Venezuelan pilots — Luis Alberto Patino and Gregori Mendez — were arrested Saturday and charged with smuggling bulk cash and goods from the U.S. and illegally possessing firearms as aliens, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a news release. The plane and its cargo were seized, the statement said.
The Venezuelan-registered Lear jet listed as its destination the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the U.S. statement said.
But Jared Rine, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, said in an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint that one of the defendants said after being arrested that the aircraft’s ultimate destination was Venezuela.
On Tuesday night St Vincent and the Grenadines police commissioner Colin John said he was briefed on the matter and asserted that CARICOM IMPLEMENTATION AGENCY FOR CRIME AND SECURITY (CARICOM IMPACS) confirmed that the aircraft in question was not destined for St. Vincent and the Grenadines; the country name was used only as a decoy.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines he said has been a bastion in the fight against illegal drugs. It will continue so to do in collaboration with our local, regional and international partners.
The private jet bounded for Venezuela was intercepted at Fort Lauderdale Hwd. International Airport, Miami on August 15th 2020.