SAA flight attendants arrested in Hong Kong on drug trafficking charges

Two South African Airways (SAA) flight attendants were arrested in Hong Kong after allegedly smuggling drugs worth R45m into the Chinese territory.

SAA spokesperson Tlali confirmed the arrests, adding both cabin crew members were detained separately by customs officials in Hong Kong on September 23 and 24, 2019, on suspicion of drug trafficking.

"The two employees were part of the crew on two separate SAA flights that operated from Johannesburg to Hong Kong. The flights landed in Hong Kong on September 22 and 24," Tlali said.

"In the incident involving the first flight, a crew member was initially detained for questioning on September 23, while in the second incident a crew member was arrested on arrival on September 24."

IOL reported the two flight attendants, a man and woman, were allegedly found in possession of cocaine worth R45m.

It was reported that the first suspect was arrested after 12kg of cocaine was found in two plastic bags, while a further 6kg was found a day later that led to the arrest of the second suspect.

SAA declined to comment on the details of the arrests as the case is part of an on-going criminal investigation.

"SAA has informed the families of the employees concerned about the situation. In addition, the South African consulate-general in Hong Kong has been notified and is facilitating a process to secure legal representation for the two employees," Tlali said.

"The airline is aware that no finding of criminal involvement has been made by the courts concerning the arrests and it will observe the due process of the law, taking into account the rights of the employees concerned.

"SAA would equally like to emphasise that the airline remains intolerant of any criminality by any of its employees. The course of action the company may pursue will be informed by its policies and the outcome of the cases."

Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said: "Yes, Dirco is aware of the arrest and detention of two SAA flight attendants in Hong Kong. The South African consulate-general in Hong Kong is rendering the necessary consular assistance and Dirco is also in contact with their families in South Africa. Due to consular privacy, the department is not in a position to release their names or any further details."

- Compiled by Alex Mitchley

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