When a small plane landed on Sunday in the rural area of San Andres de Giles in northern Buenos Aires province, neighbors assumed it had crashed. They chauffeured the pilot, who had a Brazilian accent, to the nearby town of Luján. The pilot tipped US $400 to his taxi driver, who had unknowingly helped him escape from federal authorities. “People acted in good faith, thinking that he had an accident,” said Minister Bullrich. “Until he paid 400 dollars to the remisero and let the cat out of the bag.”
The pilot had flown on a Uruguayan CX-BDR aircraft from Paraguay with 455 kilograms of marijuana, valuing US $910,000. He first landed on a hidden runway in a field near the locality of Duggan. Federal Prosecutor Luis Benítez had previous intel that the cargo would land about 25 kilometers from San Antonio de Areco and had authorities waiting for the plane. They surrounded the field as part of the “The Grail,” a ten-day operation to investigate drug trade in the region. Federal justices in the adjacent Formosa Province had begun wiretapping areas nearby in response to illicit activities there.
The armed law enforcement officers appeared from the bushes while a group of men unloaded packages from the plane. The men snatched 16 bundles of marijuana. The gendarmes opened fire, but the plane took off again. They were able to arrest six men, five from Paraguay and one from Argentina, on the ground, according to Security Minister Patricia Bullrich.
Authorities detected the plane’s second landing in San Andres de Giles. By the time they caught up, the pilot had fled. His plane was abandoned and ridden with bullets. Provincial authorities have detained the six men and seized their drugs. Federal Deputy Judge Juan Carlos Vallejos is slated to investigate them in a court in Formosa today. The pilot is still on the loose. Security experts have since discovered that the organization entered Argentina through the port of Colonial Cano in Formosa, from the Paraguayan town of Pilar, headed toward Chacho, Corrientes, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires and Mendoza.