Air Jamaica Airbus Seized by U.S. Customs
NEW YORK (AP) _ Customs agents, citing a U.S. law allowing confiscation of vehicles used to transport narcotics, seized an Air Jamaica jet for a day and fined the airline $18,000.
The plane, an A300 Airbus, was impounded Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport after agents allegedly found 45 pounds of marijuana in unticketed baggage. Agents seized the aircraft as 245 passengers were preparing to board for a flight to Jamaica.
Later, airline officials delivered a certified check for $18,000 to customs agents and reclaimed the aircraft, said Customs Service spokesman Michael Kaufman.
″They assured Customs that they will do everything in their power to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Customs is satisfied,″ said Kaufman, adding there have been no arrests but ″an investigation is pending.″
The penalty amounted to $25 per ounce of marijuana found on the plane, he said.
Since October, customs agents have seized almost 10,000 pounds of marijuana carried on Air Jamaica flights, said Kaufman.
″This was the straw that broke the camel’s back,″ he said.
Most of the 10,000 pounds seized was found in baggage not ticketed to any passenger or in cargo unlisted on the plane’s official manifest. ″Obviously, there’s an internal conspiracy with something like that,″ Kaufman said.
″Repeated violations by Air Jamaica″ led the agency to seize the plane, he said. ″It is the airline company’s responsibility to take responsibility for cargo and to clear their flight and ground personnel concerning narcotics trafficking.″
James Mahan, Customs Service spokesman in Washington, said Jamaican Ambassador Keith Johnson had been told that the airline must promise to deter smuggling.
″The ambassador said the airline would be prevailed upon by the goverment of Jamaica to take corrective action in this area,″ he said.