SAA crew arrested in London, grilled on arrival in South Africa


JOHANNESBURG — Twelve crew members of a South African Airways (SAA) plane arrested with a drugs haul at London’s Heathrow airport are being questioned by security officials after returning home, the airline said Wednesday.

“The crew members are being interviewed by the SAPS (South African Police Service) and SAA’s security division. The three cockpit crew members will return from London later in the week,” it said in a statement.

Customs officials arrested the 15-member SAA crew on Monday after seizing cocaine worth 250,000 pounds on a flight from Johannesburg in a second drugs seizure in less than a month.

They were released on bail and will be required to appear back in London on April 6, officials of the airline said.

South Africa on Tuesday announced the creation of a special body to tackle drug trafficking at its airports after the second arrest of a crew from the national carrier SAA at Heathrow.

The special team will also review the additional measures put in place by the SAA since the first incident on January 20 and “manage the urgent implementation of additional security measures,” it said.

Ten female and five male SAA crew members were also arrested on January 20 after 50 kilogrammes of cannabis, with a street value of about 150,000 pounds, and four kilos of cocaine, worth about 160,000 pounds, were found in three suitcases on the airline’s flight from Johannesburg.

SAA operates flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Heathrow airport, which is the world’s busiest international airport.

The drugs scandal comes on the back of several loss-making years, with a 110,991,023 million pounds state bail-out tabled in the 2009 budget.

The airline is also investigating its top offical who has been put on special leave, and this week announced a forensic audit by international firm KPMG.

The audit will probe alleged conflict of interest, procurement issues and retention premiums to managers.