(Independent) Reports emerging in the British press yesterday linked, albeit somewhat tenuously, Prince Harry to a one tonne shipment of cocaine confiscated by the Spanish authorities in 2012 from a Maltese luxury jet.
Fidelio Cavalli, who is reported to be a friend of Prince Harry, has been accused of being involved in a €100 million cocaine smuggling operation. Sources close to the investigation have even suggested the operation was arranged to provide funding for terror organisation Hezbollah.
In August 2012, a Maltese private jet owned and operated by a Maltese-registered company operating out of Malta International Airport was seized by authorities in the Canary Islands after it landed from Venezuela on suspicion of drug smuggling in what Spanish officials believe to be the islands’ largest cocaine haul in recent memory.
The stash was discovered in dozens of boxes inside the aircraft, which were disguised as humanitarian supplies and which bore the Red Cross logo, when Spanish police swooped down on the aircraft following an Interpol alert that the plane had been stolen and used for drug trafficking.
The plane’s three crew members − reportedly two German pilots and an Austrian flight attendant – had been arrested for drug smuggling, but were eventually released on bail.
Just yesterday, sections of the British press reported that Cavalli has been accused of helping to arrange the huge shipment of cocaine to be flown by private jet from Venezuela in South America across the Atlantic to Benin in West Africa. According to court papers in a civil action against Cavalli in Orange County, California, he had approached a private aviation company called Macair on behalf of a friend, asking for a plane. Macair did not have one large enough and helped him charter one from Hyperion Air in Malta.
According to a report in The Times (of London) yesterday, the larger plane was diverted to Gran Canaria where Spanish Customs officials were waiting. On board they found the cocaine, allegedly loaded on by armed men in Venezuela. The sacks were painted with the logo of the International Red Cross to disguise the cocaine shipment as aid.
In court, Cavalli denied being involved directly in any drug-smuggling operation and lodged a counter-complaint against his accuser, a former colleague called Najib Khoury. Khoury said he was not asserting Cavalli was part of a drug-smuggling operation but is suing for emotional distress after receiving two voicemail messages he claims were death threats. Cavalli admitted making the calls but denied he was threatening anyone’s life. His lawyer also denied any links with Hezbollah, saying Cavalli did not support the group.
Cavalli reportedly spent three days with Prince Harry in November 2014 and, as part of an international jet set, spends time in St Tropez, California and the Middle East. His Instagram account shows him surrounded by celebrities and beautiful women, and in one photograph riding a horse through a Vegas nightclub.
But five years ago, he was an unemployed waiter sleeping at a friend’s house. Lebanon-born Cavalli reportedly owes his recent good fortune to a friendship with billionaire’s son Mohammed al-Habtoor, who hired him as a driver when he was an unemployed waiter.
Strange sequence of events
The sequence of events back in August 2012 leading to the discovery and the arrest of the three crew members of the Maltese-registered and operated Bombardier BD-700-1A10 luxury private jet, belonging to Hyperion Aviation, are still far from clear, and are very strange indeed.
According to reports, the plane had suddenly left a Venezuelan airport in the city of Valencia in the dead of night between Saturday and Sunday morning while the airport was still closed − without seeking clearance and with the lights of the runway and the plane’s navigation lights switched off, which prompted Venezuelan officials to raise the alert with Interpol.
There are varying accounts of what exactly led to the hasty takeoff from Valencia’s Arturo Michelena airport under cover of darkness, but the details of what exactly transpired is sketchy.
In a tale with a twist at virtually every turn, the Maltese jet is reported to have landed in Valencia, Venezuela at 11pm inbound from Trinidad and Tobago. But the plane’s official flight plan, according to reports, showed it was meant to have arrived from Granada, and that it was due to depart for Brazil the next day.
According to the Venezuelan authorities, during the stopover in Valencia, an Australian woman had disembarked from the plane and left the airport. She is believed to have left Venezuela later on another aircraft and from another airport, for Madrid, where Spanish authorities are currently seeking her whereabouts.
After that, in the early hours of Sunday morning, and with the airport still closed, the plane is reported to have suddenly started its engines and taken off at 2.26am local time – without authorisation, from a pitch black runway and with the plane’s navigation lights still switched off, prompting Venezuelan officials to raise the alarm with Interpol for the kidnapping and alleged theft of an aircraft.
Several European countries, including Spain, were then put on the alert for the aircraft by Interpol.
The plane eventually touched down in the Canary Islands with Spanish police waiting for it.
The case is rife with conspiracy theories and the details of the case and how the plane allegedly came to be loaded with cocaine are unclear, as the case has still not been wrapped up by Spanish or Venezuelan authorities.
Accounts in the Venezuelan press indicate the plane’s crew had been staying at a Valencia hotel and in the early morning hours an unknown armed gang allegedly kidnapped the pilots from the hotel, brought them to the airport, which they broke into since it was closed at the time, and forced the crew to take off to an unknown destination.
It has been reported that, at the airport, approximately 10 armed men had forced the crew to load the plane with about 40 boxes, which authorities suspected to have been filled with cocaine.