U.S. Customs Service agents said today they seized more than 1,700 pounds of cocaine from the air-conditioning compartments of two Eastern Airlines jets flying into Miami from Colombia and fined the airline almost $1.4 million.
The cocaine, which has a street value of $430 million, was seized from two Boeing 727s, said Edward Kwas, southeast regional commissioner of customs.
The first seizure occurred Aug. 11, when 894 pounds of cocaine was found aboard Eastern Flight 972 after it arrived at Miami International Airport from Barranquilla, Colombia, Kwas said.
The second seizure came Aug. 24 after Eastern’s Flight 982 arrived from Cali, Colombia.
The two airplanes involved in the smuggling were not seized, but the airline has temporarily suspended service into Barranquilla while it evaluates security measures, said Eastern spokesman Glenn Parsons.
Eastern was fined $1,377,600, or $50 for each ounce of cocaine seized aboard the jets, Customs spokesman Edward Kittredge said from his Washington office.
A similar incident occurred last year aboard an Eastern jet. The aircraft was seized by government officials and released after the Miami-based carrier agreed to a number of security improvements aimed at cracking down on future cocaine smuggling.
In the latest incidents, Eastern officials expressed “regret” that its airplanes had been used for drug smuggling.
“Eastern . . . fully supports the efforts of the government to reduce the traffic and apprehend those who are responsible,” the airline said.