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Pivot Airlines crew wants justice after ‘cocaine cargo’ detainment

It’s a story that just keeps growing. a story that raises troubling questions about who knew what and when.

W5: producer Eric Szeto and I have been digging deeper into the Pivot Airlines ordeal now that the crew is safely back in Canada. They were put under virtual house arrest in the Dominican Republic for eight months after 210 kilograms of cocaine were found and reported on their 50-seater plane.

Gathering for the first time since their release in December 2022, the crew are demanding answers from the Canadian government about why they were left so long to “do their job” on the tropical island.

They thought they would be greeted as heroes. Instead, Dominican authorities accused them of being part of an international crime syndicate, although they were never questioned and never charged.

Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra promised to conduct an investigation. The RCMP confidentially says: “The RCMP does not confirm, deny or release information related to active investigations.”

And so far, neither transportation officials nor the Mountaineers have interviewed the crew or shared details about the status of possible searches.

Pilot Rob DiVenanzo tells W5: “I’ve been through enough. I will fight until we find out why this happened. I won’t leave.”

His co-pilot, Aatif Safdar, is equally angry at the Canadian authorities’ silence. “They don’t want to investigate, they don’t want to talk about it.”

Four Pivot Airlines crew members reunite for first time since being released from Dominican Republic last December (W5)

Their ordeal began almost exactly a year ago.

On March 31, 2022, a crew of five departed Toronto’s Pearson Airport on what was supposed to be a four-day charter.

Their nightmare began when they were about to leave Punta Cana airport in the Dominican Republic. A warning light led to the discovery of the drug in the plane’s avionics bay.

The preliminary investigation of W5, Loads of cocaineabout the disclosed details shadowy criminal history flight a number of passengers. We found out that the company that hired the charter does not exist. We exposed the man who paid for the flights, Edmonton real estate consultant Vic Mander.

Former RCMP investigator Gary Clement reviewed the research compiled by W5 and says he can’t understand why the RCMP has been so quiet about the plot to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into Canada.

“This is not a complicated case. I was surprised that a number of RCMP investigators didn’t jump on board with this,” he told W5. Among the crimes he believes should be investigated are conspiracy to import cocaine, money laundering and possession of the proceeds of crime.

The RCMP did not question the alleged moneylender, Vic Mander, and there is no evidence that the passengers were questioned either.

Staff say their ordeal should be a red flag for any Canadians traveling to the tourist destination.

“We know that the Dominican Republic is a source country for drugs. We have to really step up our efforts and make sure that the Canadians flying there are safe,” pilot Divenanzo told W5.

“Planes continue to fly there. Canadians continue to vacation there. The onus should be on the Canadian government to make sure those Canadians are as safe as possible.”

File photo: Captain Robert Di Venanzo (left) was stranded in the Dominican Republic for eight months, from spring to December 2022.

W5 uncovered evidence of corruption at Punta Cana airport, specifically that an official airport truck was involved in transporting bags of drugs onto planes, and that the surveillance video has been edited remove that evidence.

The crew, who begged the Canadian government for months to take them home, felt abandoned while in the DR and say they continue to be abandoned now that they are home.

“Absolute silence today,” said frustrated flight attendant Alex Roznov.

Co-pilot Aatif Safdar says of the Canadian government:

A new W5 investigation reveals exclusive details about who was behind the smuggling plot and what the RCMP knew about the scheme and when. Watch Cocaine Cargo II Saturday at 7pm on CTV.

Do you have any tips for this story? Please get in touch Avery Haynes or Eric Seto

#Pivot #Airlines #crew #justice #cocaine #cargo #detainment

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