|DiarioLibre, Santo Domingo - The investigations regarding the disappearance of an airplane that left the Joaquin Balaguer International Airport at El Higuero destined for Port-au-Prince, but which turned towards Colombia, have let to the discovery of a mafia that handled clandestine flights and which used local airports. According to the investigators, these flights handled people and money. |
Besides the "mysterious" disappearance on Sunday,7 March, of a Cessna 210L Centurion, serial number 21059588, and the Cessna C-210 with tail number N-2066S, last December , the authorities added yesterday the flight of a Cessna 172 AP, tail number N6028Y, to the file of "disappearing" airplanes. This was a flight that left from El Portillo Airport bound for Punta Cana and then disappeared from radars and landed in a clandestine field in Puerto Rico.
According to the data obtained by Diario Libre from the investigators of the inter-institutional commission charged with solving the thorny case, this latest event documented occurred last 16 November, and the airplane left with 5 persons on board, including 2 children and a Cuban woman.
The clandestine flight was piloted by Roberto Enrique Bougeous, a U.S. citizen, who the authorities have established had made several clandestine flights with the Cessna 172 AP, using local airports as a base of operations. Bougeous was flying in spite of the fact that his pilot's license was suspended by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2005.
"Clandestine flights are leaving from different points around the country. There is a mafia that is taking people out of the country", stated Assistant Attorney General Bolivar Sanchez for Diario Libre. Sanchez heads the commission that is investigating these flights.
The judicial official noted that the mafias are making criminal use of the facilities that the aeronautical authorities have offered in order to facilitate private aviation use of the local airports. These facilities consist of not having to present a written flight plan for local flights inside national territory. In these cases, there are no migration controls and the pilot only has to report his route by radio.
Even though he questioned the weak controls surrounding airport security, that allow foreigners without documents to walk around without difficulty in restricted areas of the air terminals, magistrate Bolivar Sanchez asked how it was possible that the airplane that left Portillo could enter Puerto Rico without being under the control of their air traffic controllers.
The airplane that left El Portillo disappeared in plain flight, the pilot turned off his radio and flew low under the radars, but appeared on a "general declaration" that was falsified in Puerto Rico. After landing at the clandestine airstrip, he flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico where he stated that he had flown in from El Catey International Airport.
Sanchez said that other controls will have to be adopted at the airport in order to close the gap that allows local airports to be used for clandestine flights.
The investigations headed by the Attorney General of the Republic and include the Civil Aviation Institute, (IDAC), the National Department of Drug Control (DNCD), the Specialized Corps fro Airport Security,(CESA), and Migration. The authorities have questioned more than a dozen persons, including technicians and employees of different state institutions that service the El Higuero International Airport.