Five Canadians stuck in a legal hell in the Dominican Republic are hoping to hitch a ride home with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who’s in the region on a two-week summer holiday.
The flight crew has been held for 120 days since drugs were located on their plane, according to the Toronto Sun. The $25-million bag of cocaine was found after crew directed authorities to a suspicious bag on the 50-seat CRJ-100 passenger jet.
One member invited Trudeau to pick them up with the government jet when he returns to Canada. The prime minister is 1,770 km south in Costa Rica.
“Why not? He’s in Costa Rica, which is not far from here,” said flight attendant Alexander Rozov. “It has been very hard for us,” Rozov continued, “We would love it if he would stop by and pick us up.”
The crew has not had contact with Trudeau or Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly. They said they feel alone, forgotten, and abandoned. “Even my MP (Member of Parliament), Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Beaches-East York), has not answered any of my requests,” Rozov said. The crew has been granted bail and are under house arrest in the Caribbean country until they appear back in Dominican court on August 25.
Rozov and the rest of the crew — Capt. Robert Di Venanzo, co-pilot Aatif Safdar, mechanical engineer Bal Krishna Dubey, and flight attendant Christina Carello — are taking their pleas public. They’re encouraging the more than one million Canadians who annually vacation in the Dominican to reconsider.
“Canadians should choose somewhere else,” Rozov said. “We have no rights here and feel like hostages. There is no justice. We have not even been charged or even questioned but have spent time in jail and house arrest.”
The incident occurred on what was suppose to be an April 5 takeoff from Punta Cana toward Toronto. One of the doors was would not close properly. When a mechanic investigated, they found the hockey bag full of cocaine. The crew notified Dominican Republic authorities and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Rozov said the detainment doesn’t make sense because “We were the ones who reported the crime. If we didn’t, those drugs would have been brought to Canada and be on our streets right now.”
Local law enforcement inspected the plane and discovered more bags of cocaine in the aircraft’s control compartments. The five crew members were placed in handcuffs and taken to jail where they were held for nine days in the same facility with local suspects in the actual smuggling operation.
“Global Affairs Canada is aware of the incident involving Pivot Airlines in the Dominican Republic,” a spokesperson told the Toronto Sun. “Canadian officials continue to monitor the situation closely, are engaging with local authorities, and providing consular assistance.”
“Due to privacy considerations, no further information can be disclosed,” the spokesperson added.
“It has been terrible,” Rozov said. “We have no freedom and many of the crew have children and family who are affected.”
When Trudeau met with Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 10, the crew were hopeful something would develop. But according to Rozov, “All that was said was that the court process would be followed.”
A Canadian Taxpayers Federation report revealed that Trudeau’s 2019 Christmas vacation in Costa Rica cost taxpayers $196,137. He has said he will not bill this trip to taxpayers, though he is using the military jet.
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