SAA cabin crew arrested in Hong Kong for alleged drug trafficking
Johannesburg - Two South African Airways (SAA) flight attendants have been arrested in Hong Kong after they were found with drugs believed to have a street value of about R45-million.
One of them is believed to be part of the Presidential Crew who flew with President Cyril Ramaphosa to Geneva last year.
According to a Hong Kong website, rthk.hk, the man and woman were found with about 18 kilograms of suspected cocaine which has a street value of HK$23 million, about R45-million.
They were allegedly nabbed during an operation targeting drug trafficking through staff and passenger channels at Hong Kong International Airport.
"A 39-year-old woman was arrested at a Tsim Sha Tsui hotel on Monday (September 23) just after just over 12 kilos of the drug was found in two black plastic bags the day before by airport customs.
"A further six kilos was found in another black plastic bag on Tuesday (September 24), leading to the arrest of a 35-year-old man," the websites reports.
SAA's Tlali Tlali confirmed the arrests, saying their cabin crew employees were detained by the country's customs officials on 23 and September 24 on suspicion of drug trafficking charges.
He said the two employees were part of the crews on two separate SAA flights that operated from Johannesburg to Hong Kong which landed in Hong Kong on 22 and 24 September respectively.
"In the incident involving the first flight, a crew member was initially detained for questioning on 23 September while in the second incident a crew member was arrested on arrival on 24 September.
"The airline appreciates that the matters are part of ongoing criminal investigations and may currently be before the courts – it is for that reason that SAA will not be making any elaborate comments on these matters until they have been finalised," he said.
Tlali said the airline has informed the families of the employees concerned about what happened and that the South African Consulate-General in Hong Kong has been notified and is facilitating a process to secure legal representation for the two.
"The airline is aware that no finding of criminal involvement has been made by the courts out of the two separate arrests and will observe due process of the law, taking into account the rights of the employees concerned.
"SAA would equally like to emphasise that the airline remains intolerant of any criminality by anyone of its employees. The course of action the company may pursue will be informed by the company policy and the outcomes of the cases currently in court."
The Department of International Relations and Coorperation (Dirco) confirmed that they were also aware of the arrests.
"Yes, Dirco is aware of the arrest and detention of the two SAA flight attendants in Hong Kong. The SA Consulate in Hong Kong is rendering the necessary consular assistance and Dicro is also in contact with the family in SA," said Dirco's Lunga Ngqengelele.
There are allegations that the woman is also part of the presidential crew and accompanies President Cyril Ramaphosa on flights as required. She was allegedly part of the crew that were in the flight that flew Ramaphosa to Geneva last year.
A source with information on how the Presidential Crew gets chosen said: "They are handpicked by SAA and are subjected to extra security clearance. As they are not required all the time, they do other flights as well."
Tlali, however, would not confirm if it was indeed true that the woman was part of the Presidential Crew.