Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Air crew bailed over drugs find

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Fifteen airline crew members have been bailed after officials at Heathrow airport seized cannabis and cocaine with a street value of £310,000.

The South African Airways staff, including three pilots, were arrested on Tuesday after 50kg (110lbs) of cannabis was found in baggage.

A further search uncovered 4Kg (8.8lbs) of cocaine, worth £160,000.

The crew from the SA 234 Johannesburg flight have been released pending further inquiries.

They have been granted unconditional bail and instructed to report back to Heathrow police station on 23 March, HM Revenue and Customs spokesman Bob Gaiger said.

Officers from the UK Border Agency found the cannabis in three bags after the plane landed in London at 0800 GMT on Tuesday. The case was then passed on to Customs.

The Customs spokesman said the cocaine was found in one of the bags during a further search later that afternoon.

He added that all flight and cabin crew were subjected to the same checks as passengers.

SAA, which is owned by the South African government, said it was cooperating fully with the UK authorities.

In a statement, the firm said: "The airline has also launched an investigation into this matter involving SAA Aviation Security and the SAPS [South African Police Service] Crime Intelligence Unit".

A spokeswoman later confirmed the 15 staff, all based in South Africa, had not been suspended but had been taken off flying duties.

They would be returning to South Africa at the end of the week, she said.

She added that the company was taking the discovery of the drugs "extremely seriously" and had provided the crew with legal representation.



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