Two pilots and three crew members of Canadian charter carrier Pivot Airlines have been detained in the Dominican Republic after contraband drugs were seized on their aircraft shortly before it was due to fly from Punta Cana to Toronto. 

According to a statement issued by Pivot Airlines to CTV News Toronto, the five crew members discovered and reported contraband found on the aircraft.

The National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD) of the Dominican Republic said that eight packages, each containing 25 smaller packages of cocaine, totalling 200 packages, were located in the aircraft’s control compartments after a thorough search. The total weight of the seized drugs is about 200 kilograms of cocaine, making it a major drug bust.

Moreover, Dominican prosecutors allege that Pivot Airlines, an Ontario-based charter airline that was founded in 2020, and its occupants, including the crew, ​​were “acting as a front for smuggling drugs into Toronto”, according to a report by the National Post

The prosecutors also urged a judge to keep the crew and passengers in custody for at least 12 months while investigations are held.

Meanwhile, Pivot Airlines CEO Eric Edmonson sent a letter to the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and appealed to the government to intervene and “do more”.

“We are reaching out to you to request your urgent assistance in ensuring the safe return of the Canadian aircrew being wrongfully held in the Dominican Republic,” Edmondson wrote in a letter to Joly, quoted by Global News Canada.

“For more than 24 days, our crew has been subject to threats against their lives, inhumane treatment, and arbitrary detention, for dutifully reporting a crime and averting a potential aviation disaster. We are deeply concerned for their safety and are pleading with you to intervene so they may return home to their families,” Edmonson said. 

Edmonson also created a post on LinkedIn published on World Pilots’ Day to raise awareness about the involvement of the Pivot Airlines crew in the case. 

“On World Pilots’ Day, I would like to ask my aviation industry connections to pause and think about the two pilots and three other crew members held in the Dominican Republic after reporting suspected contraband onboard their aircraft before departure from Punta Cana to local and Canadian authorities, “ Edmonson wrote.

Edmonson further added: “Under Dominican laws, you can be detained WITHOUT charges or the assumption of guilt for 12 months in complex cases during an investigation. The pilots and other crew members spent several days in a horrific detention center only to be released on bail under the condition of remaining in the DR, all while being publicly identified and labeled as whistleblowers.”

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