Kam Air spurns drug smuggling charges as plot
KABUL (PAN): Aviation officials and Kam Air representatives on Saturday angrily rejected as baseless a media report that the airline smuggled big quantities of opium to Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, on passenger flights.
The Ministry of Transport and Aviation said it would investigate the smuggling allegation in cooperation with the International Security Assistance (ISAF) to dig out the truth.
Wall Street Journal quoted US officials on Friday as saying the bulk of the onward trafficking began at Tajikistan’s airports, usually on Russia-bound flights. Apparently, it said, the smuggling was taking place under the nose of airport officials.
The Pentagon, which has blacklisted Kam Air from receiving military contracts, has launched an investigation when the airline submitted a bid on contract to service the US-led coalition.
But the airline, which operates four weekly flights between Kabul and Dushanbe, rejected the allegation as baseless. Tajikistan’s National Security Committee and Foreign Ministry declined commenting on the issue.
Kam Air president and founder Zmarai Kamgar said he was ready to defend his firm against the allegation that he said had dealt a serious blow to the airline's reputation.
Flanked by a spokesman for the aviation ministry, Nangyalai Qalatwal, Kamgar called the allegation a plot hatched by international rivals. He urged President Hamid Karzai to help the airline out of the problem.
Kamgar asserted the allegation had come after his firm informed the aviation ministry about illegal operations of foreign flights at three Afghan airports. He did not name any company, but said the government had been informed two years ago.
He said Karzai had recently urged ISAF troops to use Afghan flights for military needs and do business with them in order to strengthen the sector.
"We were expecting ISAF to seek our assistance in improving Afghanistan's economy. We are being blacklisted to keep us away from doing business with foreign troops," Kamgar said
The aviation ministry spokesman said it would be impossible to fly drugs out of the country as the airline was subject to thorough security checks at airports.
Qalatwal said that in addition to Afghan security personnel, foreign guards had been hired at airports under a contract with an international security company to check all passengers.
He said if anyone had evidence against Kam Air, it should be shared with the Afghan authorities. "The government wants the allegation to be thoroughly investigated at the international level," he said, insisting no incident of the kind had taken place over the past many years.
Kabul Airport security chief, Mohammad Yaqub Rassouli, said they maintained rigorous checks on passengers and flights. Not a single gram of opium or other drugs had been transported to a foreign country through Afghan airports over the past seven years, he insisted.
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