PIA crew detained over drugs suspicion

UK authorities conduct search following tip-off from Pakistan that there were narcotics on board flight

Gulf News

Islamabad: A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane flying to Heathrow Airport was thoroughly searched and its 14 member crew detained by British authorities after landing in London over information that there were narcotics on board the flight.

The incident happened on Monday when PK 785 from Islamabad to London arrived at the airport at 2.50pm.

Upon landing, as passengers disembarked, the flight crew and aircraft were searched by authorities, PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar said.

The 14 crew members were kept in detention for five hours and, according to UK Border Agency (UKBA) sources, information had been received from Pakistan that there were narcotics on board the flight, Geo TV reported.

According to the information, there was suspicion that the crew might be involved and the narcotics were hidden in different panels and areas of the plane, the report said.

However, the National Crime Agency and UKBA agents, after searching the plane for approximately four hours, did not find anything.

The crew was later released after being questioned but their passports were withheld by the UKBA, which stated that further questioning might take place.

According to UKBA officials, the inquiry is still ongoing and after they are satisfied the next steps will be announced regarding whether the passports would be released or charges filed, the report said.

In a statement, the Metropolitan police said action against PIA crew members was taken by the UKBA which is directly dealt by the Home Office.

“We have not been informed as to why was the crew detained,” Tajwar said.

PIA has been suffering huge losses and administration is trying to improve the situation but the airline is frequently facing embarrassment.

In January, as many as seven passengers were forced to stand throughout the more than three-hour flight from Karachi to Madinah after the airline boarded excess passengers in a serious breach of air safety regulations.

In February, a Heathrow-bound PIA aircraft was intercepted and escorted by fighter jets to Stansted Airport in northeast London because of a “vague security threat”. Later, a suspect was arrested and charged with fraud and misrepresentation by Met Police.

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