An average of 14 airplanes have been stolen by drug traffickers in Colombia each year since 2008, reported Radio Caracol.
Reports of a $6 million plane missing from Bogota’s El Dorado Airport surfaced April 2, but the Radio Caracol investigation has suggested this could be the tip of the iceberg.
Since 2008, an average of 14 planes a year have been reported missing to Colombia’s aviation authority Aerocivil. Before 2008 the figure was higher, with up to 21 planes disappearing annually.
According to Radio Caracol, the investigation proved difficult due to aviation officials’ fear of reprisals from alleged traffickers who used the stolen planes to smuggle drugs out of Colombia. Some Aerocivil workers allegedly obstructed investigations into the missing planes.
“The information flow was very slow in recent years and has improved a lot, but delays were very long. The reporting [of missing aircraft] was very sporadic,” an unnamed source told the station.
Airport employees are paid up to $5,000 to allow the theft of an airplane, although other tactics have been utilized by criminal groups.
“With blackmail. Ideally, you could have a girlfriend kidnapped or taken from the home […] There are many ways to press an official,” the source revealed.
Guatemalan Minister Hector Mauricio Lopez said there are around 90 stolen airplanes used for drug smuggling found in his country each year. He estimated that 80% of those planes come from Colombia.