Uruguayan Air Force to Deploy Airplane Seized from Drug Traffickers

Uruguayan Air Force to Deploy Airplane Seized from Drug Traffickers

By Dialogo
November 17, 2015

The Uruguayan Air Force (FAU, for its Spanish acronym) will use in its counter-narcotics fight a small plane that was seized by the Directorate General against Illicit Drug Trafficking in 2013.

It will “contribute greater strength to the fight on drugs in this country,” National Defense Ministry Undersecretary Jorge Menéndez said in an interview with Diálogo
. Menéndez, along with FAU Commander in Chief Air Force General Alberto Zanelli received the single-engine Cessna C-210 Centurion from Milton Romani, the secretary general of the National Drug Enforcement Bureau, at the Santa Bernardina Second Air Brigade in the city of Durazno on October 6.

The FAU will also deploy the plane “to fight fires, for health outreach and liaison missions – activities that are in alignment with the Liaison Squadron’s primary mission,” he added.

The FAU intercepts a narco-plane

The Cessna was being used by drug traffickers when security forces seized it.

On July 29, 2013, two A37-B Dragon Fly airplanes belonging to the FAU’s Second Air Squadron intercepted the plane, which was marked with Paraguayan tail number ZP-TMF, and forced it to land in Durazno after it violated Uruguayan airspace.

“Coordinated and professional work performed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, National Defense, the Judiciary, and the Prosecutor’s Offices allowed us to confirm that the aircraft was acting as an escort to smuggle illegal substances into this country,” Menéndez said. “The engine did not have a serial number; it had been erased previously.”

At about the same time, security agents seized a second aircraft that was loaded with more than 470 kilograms of drugs on a clandestine airstrip in the department of Rocha, near the border with Brazil.

“The Air Force, its airmen, officers, and NCOs [non-commissioned officers] have demonstrated that this country can be secure in its defense of the country’s airspace,” Romani stated.

“The Uruguayan government and the Armed Forces act in unison in the continuing fight against organized crime and money laundering,” Menéndez said. “We are also constantly conducting professional training to confront these threats.”

Security forces seize planes, cars, and properties used by drug traffickers

Security forces have a solid track record of seizing narco-planes, automobiles, maritime vessels, and properties used by drug traffickers.

Since the Assets Forfeiture Fund began in 2010, authorities have seized 600 motor vehicles (of which 500 have already been sold at auction), three ships, 24 real-estate properties, and at least six airplanes. Among the aircraft, authorities are in the process of auctioning off two; another was given to the Air Force Technical School, two are being used by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the other was transferred to the Ministry of Defense.

The processes governing the Assets Forfeiture Fund’s seizure, forfeiture, and administration “were carried out quickly. This wouldn’t have happened without a suitable statutory framework, which is new and which closely tracks international norms,” Menéndez explained.

Single-engine Cessnas are favored by drug trafficking organizations because they can carry a large amount of cargo, fly a long range at low altitudes to avoid radar, and land on short, dirt airstrips. The list of single-engine planes preferred by drug traffickers is led by the Cessna 182 Skylane, which is light, seats four, can carry 400 kilograms of cargo, and fly for four hours on a full fuel tank, according to the website Aviación Argentina
. Drug traffickers also like the Cessna 206, for its excellent flight range, and the Cessna 210 Centurion, which can carry up to 700 kilograms.