Spanish police have arrested a member of the Brazilian Air Force who carried three bags full of cocaine on a military plane to Seville hours before President Jair Bolsonaro’s was scheduled to take a stopover there, police and officials said on Wednesday.
The Brazilian Air Force said in a statement the airman was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and the case was also being investigated by the country’s military police.
A Spanish police source said officers discovered 39 kg of the drug in three pieces of luggage, which they checked on Tuesday while the plane was waiting to continue its journey to Tokyo.
The suspect was supporting Bolsonaro’s trip to Japan for this week’s G20 meeting, Vice President Hamilton Mourao told journalists in Brasilia. The airman had been assigned to remain in Spain and embark on the president’s plane for the final leg of his return trip.
“Obviously, given the quantity of the drug he was carrying, he didn’t buy it on the corner and bring it, right? He was working as a mule. A well qualified mule, so to speak,” said Mourao.
Bolsonaro’s original official itinerary listed Seville as a stopover on Tuesday night, but an updated version cited Lisbon.
In a tweet, Bolsonaro said he had been informed of Tuesday’s arrest by the defense minister and ordered “immediate cooperation with Spanish police”, and described the officer's conduct disgraceful.
Further information provided in the Brazilian media indicates that Manoel Silva Rodrigues has since 2015, done at least 29 trips with presidential aircraft. In effect he is reported to have flown with the president from Brasilia to Sao Paulo, last May from Brasilia to Recife and in 18/19 March he flew to Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo. At the time Bolsonaro was on a visit to the United States.
Carlos Bolsonaro also revealed that according to information received Sergeant Silva Rodrigues was also a member of the crew that flew with previous presidents, Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer.
In total the Air Force sergeant flew at least 29 times with the special group of aircraft at the service of the Brazilian executive
In effect Silva Rodrigues is reported to have flown last year with ex president Temer to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. Likewise in 2016 from Brasilia to the north of the country in May 2016 with then president Dilma Rousseff.
According to the Brazil Transparency portal, the sergeant has a monthly salary of some US$ 1.850