Tue, Feb 24, 2009 - Page 6 News List

SAA launches anti-drug measures after London arrest


South African Airways (SAA) said on Sunday it was introducing stiff anti-drug measures after its crewmembers were arrested with a drugs haul last week at London’s Heathrow airport.

Following the arrest of the 15-member crew of the national carrier, the second in a month, SAA announced in a statement it had created a special body to tackle drug trafficking at its airports.

Among other recommendations, the body has called for more sniffer dogs to “assist with narcotic detection” and installing drug detection devices around the airports, it said.

Modern scanners with narcotic detection capabilities will also be installed next month, the airline said.

All luggage belonging to crewmembers will be physically searched, as will incoming and outgoing aircraft to “ensure no unauthorized goods are onboard aircraft,” the airline said.

Customs officials arrested the 15-member SAA crew last Monday after seizing cocaine worth US$354,300 on a flight from Johannesburg. They were released on bail and will be required to appear back in London on April 6.

Fifteen SAA crewmembers were arrested on Jan. 20 after 50kg of cannabis and four kilos of cocaine were found in three suitcases on the airline’s flight from Johannesburg.

The drugs scandal comes on the back of several loss-making years, with a US$157 million state bailout tabled in this year’s budget. The airline is also investigating its top official who has been put on special leave and has announced an audit by international firm KPMG.

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