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Brazilian airman from president’s backup plane caught smuggling '39kg of cocaine'

Brazilian airman from president’s backup plane caught smuggling '39kg of cocaine'
A crew member from a Brazilian military plane used to arrange travel for the president was arrested in Spain with a bagful of cocaine in his luggage. The Brazilian leader said the man was not from “his team.”

The Air Force service member was arrested by Spain’s Civil Guard on Tuesday at Seville airport, where the plane stopped before flying to Osaka for the upcoming G20 summit. According to El Pais, the illegal cargo was found inside a bag of Sergeant Manoel Silva Rodrigues, during a mandatory check. Spanish customs authorities discovered 37 packages of cocaine each weighing over a kilo, or about 39kg in total, which the Brazilian reportedly didn’t even bother to properly hide before trying to enter the country.

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The failed smuggler was arrested while the rest of the crew left for Japan the same afternoon. The aircraft will be used as a backup plane for President Jair Bolsonaro after the end of the G20 summit.

Spanish law enforcement is now trying to establish the intended destination of the narcotics. The Brazilian Defense Ministry pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

The Brazilian president denounced the arrested person. “Although not related to my team, yesterday’s episode in Spain is unacceptable,” he tweeted, adding that an attempt to use government transport for drug trafficking was “disrespect to our country.”

The plane with Bolsonaro on board, which was scheduled to land in Seville before flying to Japan, slightly changed its course after the incident. Lisbon was used for a stopover instead, with the president’s office offering no explanation for the change.

The scandal may be particularly embarrassing for the president, whose administration enacted tougher policies on drug-related crimes earlier this month, which were passed by the parliament in May. The new rules raise the minimum penalty for traffickers and require users to undergo rehabilitation regardless of their wishes as long as a family member agrees to it. Bolsonaro, who was elected on a law-and-order platform, is an avowed critic of drug liberalization.

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