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Yes, South African cabin crew arrested for smuggling drugs into Hong Kong

On 2 October 2019 an article with the headline “SAA flight attendants arrested in Hong Kong on drug trafficking charges” was published on the South African news site News24

It claimed two South African Airways (SAA) flight attendants had been arrested for smuggling drugs worth R45 million into the city.

But the article was flagged as possibly false by Facebook’s fact-checking system.

Were two SAA flight attendants arrested in Hong Kong? We investigated.

Reported on other credible news sites

The News24 article quoted SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali as saying: “The two employees were part of the crew on two separate flights that operated from Johannesburg to Hong Kong. The flights landed in Hong Kong on September 22 and 24.”

The story was also reported by the established South African news platforms Times Live and SABC News, as well as by Fox News and the New York Post in the USA.

Hong Kong media report incident

The incident was first reported in the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post on 26 September 2019. 

The headline read: “Hong Kong customs seizes nearly HK$24 million worth of cocaine from two flight crew members.” 

Although no airline was mentioned, the authorities believed the drugs were from Africa, according to the article. 

Hong Kong Customs press statement

The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department had issued a public statement on 25 September on its website

The statement said two cabin crew members were detained on 23 and 24 September for suspected drug smuggling, and would appear in West Kowloon magistrate’s court in Hong Kong on 26 September. 

This was the largest drug trafficking case involving flight crew in the last decade, according to the customs and excise department. 

The nationality of the cabin crew or the airline for whom they worked was not stated. 

SAA spokesperson confirms arrest of crew members

But according to Times Live, Tlali said that SAA knew two of their cabin crew members were detained and had appeared in court for suspected drug smuggling. 

South Africa’s department of international relations and cooperation also confirmed the details through their spokesperson, Lunga Ngqengelele. This was reported by SABC News, which said the families of the two arrested cabin crew members had been notified.

The news articles claiming that two SAA flight attendants were arrested in Hong Kong are correct. – Butchie Seroto


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