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Canadian Air-Crew’s Dominican Ordeal Nears Possible End

Crew Wrongfully Held for Reporting Illegal Drugs

On 05 April 2022, a crew in the employ of Canadian charter air-carrier Pivot Airlines happened upon 460-pounds of cocaine stashed in the avionics bay of the CRJ-100 they were scheduled to operate on a chartered flight from Punta Cana (PUJ) to Canada.

Upon being made aware of the contraband, the flight’s captain, Robert Di Venanzo, immediately reported such to both Canadian and Dominican authorities.

Though no charges were filed, Dominican police confiscated the air-crew’s passports and imprisoned Di Venanzo, his second-in-command, two flight attendants, and a Pivot maintenance engineer traveling aboard the flight.

Pivot Airlines, the families of the jailed crew-members, and humanitarian organizations repeatedly attempted to compel the government of Canada to intercede in the matter, albeit to no avail.

Comes now December 2022, and Dominican prosecutors—after more than seven-months of abjectly perverting justice and precipitously lowering the wider world’s opinion of the Caribbean island nation’s civility—have begun the process of releasing the long-suffering Canadian crew-members.

Pivot Airlines CEO Eric Edmondson stated: "Earlier today, paperwork was filed to free the five Pivot crew-members who have been detained in the Dominican Republic for 220 days after reporting suspected contraband on their aircraft. We are deeply relieved that these five Canadians will soon return home to their families and loved ones. When they return home to Canada, they will be returning as heroes."

Notwithstanding the filing of requisite paperwork, doubts remain that the Pivot crew-members will be expediently repatriated. Edmondson conceded: "We are urging the Dominican Republic authorities to begin the process of releasing the crew without delay. Due to this uncertainty, and the very real potential for unforeseen delays, we do not yet have a timeline for the crew's return."

Throughout the protracted and indefensible fiasco, Dominican prosecutors have acquitted themselves miserably, going so far as to pursue re-incarceration of the Canadian crew after they were bailed, claiming Pivot Airlines is a drug-smuggling front.

The duplicity of the Dominican legal system is underscored by the fact that the Pivot crew required repeated and surreptitious movement from safehouse to safehouse for purpose of concealing the conscientious Canadians from local gangs and cartel members intent on killing them in retribution for their having promptly reported the drugs aboard their aircraft to Dominican authorities. Despite comprehensive security measures, the Pivot crew-members have faced threats and extortion attempts in the wake of the estimated $25-million drug seizure attributable to their actions.

"They’ve been in safe houses where we continue to move them,” Edmondson confided. “Two to three weeks was the average stay at each place. [Crew-members had] 24-seven armed security and faced a lot of restrictions around their free movement."

The Pivot crew’s release remains contingent upon a final sign-off from Dominican courts. That the case may drag on for a period of time measurable in days is possible. That it will languish for weeks in the shabby halls of the Dominican judiciary is probable.



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