Hamilton crew member among those detained after drugs found on plane in Dominican Republic

A Hamilton man acquitted in a notorious domestic violence case that landed his brother in jail, is jailed in the Dominican Republic after 210 kilograms of cocaine were found on the plane he was piloting.

Aatif Safdar was arrested in a major international drug case on April 5 when a Pivot Airline plane was searched by drug control officers at Punta Cana International Airport before it could depart on a private flight to Toronto .

Safdar, a licensed pilot, is one of the five crew members arrested.

A statement sent to The Spectator by Pearson-based Pivot says it was the crew who discovered the cache and contacted authorities.

Aatif’s brother, Adeel Safdar, a now-disgraced scientist once considered a superstar by McMaster University, is serving a four-year prison sentence for breaking his ex-wife’s jaw in two places and disfiguring her ear permanently.

In the longest domestic violence trial in Hamilton’s history, the court heard how doctor Dr Sara Salim married Adeel in an arranged marriage. She moved in with him and his extended family – including Aatif – in Hamilton and is said to have suffered emotional and physical abuse and torture.

The brothers and their mother were charged and their defense at trial was that Sara was mentally ill and self-inflicted.

While Adeel was found guilty of aggravated assault. Aatif was found not guilty of assault, assault with a weapon, assault and death threats. Their mother, Shaheen Safdar, faced the same charges in Aatif and was also found not guilty on all counts.

Aatif’s wife, Sehrish Hassan, caused unexpected drama at the trial when she was caught lying in the witness box. She was a law school graduate at the time, but was fired from a local company after her stunt.

Defense attorneys Dean Paquette and Nader Hasan represented the Safdars in the domestic violence case. Paquette was unaware of Aatif’s new legal troubles until he was contacted by The Spectator. Emails, phone calls and text messages to Hasan went unanswered.

Aatif worked part-time at the Brampton Flight Center before COVID. His profile picture on LinkedIn shows him in a cockpit, dressed in an airline uniform and he identifies himself as a pilot with Pivot Airlines, which specializes in charter flights. He also presents himself as a life coach. His profile says he lives in Hannon, Ontario, which is the location of his home on the East Mountain.

Aatif also said on LinkedIn that his “dynamic air operations team” provides services to the Department of Forests, Department of Health, Coast Guard, RCMP and Department of National Defense.

His last message was the day of the drug bust. He said “Masha’Allah, a real character of resilience! in reference to Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The message came just days before Khan lost a vote of no confidence and was ousted from power.

Shaheen Safdar and her husband were from Pakistan. She and her sons became Canadian citizens after leaving Saudi Arabia.

Reports indicate that 11 people on the Pivot flight are being held for questioning. It seems most, if not all, are Canadian, including: Syed Aatif Safdar, Sheldon Gaspard Poirier, Younane Hadare, Briscoe Kash Everett, Aldayeh Ranya, Leblond Francheska, Mckenna Liam Patrick, Di-Venanzo Robert Lee, Dubey Bal Krishna, Carello Christina, Wojcik-Harrison Brittney Lynn and Alexander Rozov.

Dominican Republic media, citing the National Directorate of Drug Control as a source, say authorities searched the plane and found eight black bags filled with hundreds of bricks of cocaine hidden in compartments inside the jet. twin engine.

Pivot says the crew “discovered suspected contraband in the aircraft compartment during their normal duties.”

“In accordance with our policies and procedures, as well as local and international laws and regulations, the crew immediately reported the discovery to local authorities. In addition, our Canadian dispatch office immediately contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to report the discovery. incident and seek procedural advice in conjunction with local authorities.

The viewer contacted the RCMP last week. The only response from the media relations office in Ottawa is that it received The Spec’s request for information.

The RCMP Ontario Media Office responded by saying, “The RCMP generally does not confirm or deny whether an investigation is underway unless criminal charges are laid. We therefore cannot provide any further information on this.

Pivot says “our primary concern is the safety, security, ethical and humane treatment of our crew as we seek to ensure their safe return to Canada.”

He says the airline, as well as the three national unions representing crew members and the Canadian Embassy in the Dominican Republic are cooperating with the investigating authorities.

Pivot says it has retained attorneys in the Dominican Republic and Canada to represent its crew.

On Monday, Pivot told The Spectator that those being held in the Caribbean country “in dangerous conditions” include the five crew members who reported the drug discovery to authorities. The airline says crew members are held in two prisons – male and female and “the circumstances of our crew in these facilities are dangerous and very volatile”.

“Our male crew members in particular were held in communal cells with individuals charged with involvement in drug-related crimes,” Pivot said. “They don’t speak the language, have been identified as reporting contraband to authorities, and fear for their safety.”

The airline also said in an email that by immediately reporting the suspected contraband, the crew “probably prevented an air disaster, fire and controllability issues that likely would have occurred had the contraband remained on board.” “.

He explained that the “unaccounted weight” of 210 kilograms of drugs on this aircraft “presents an extreme safety risk…given the fuel load”.

“Additionally, the contraband was located in a maintenance compartment containing several critical electrical systems and packaged in flammable bags,” the company says.

Pivot says lawyers have informed the company that the investigation by Dominican authorities could take more than a year.

It’s unclear why Pivot thinks his crew will be held for a year-long investigation. Attempts to have this explained have gone unanswered.

Punta Cana media reports that the rest of the detainees are passengers and that none of the detainees are from the Dominican Republic.

Pivot describes itself as being committed to “the highest operating and commercial standards” and says that during the pandemic it has flown more than 200 “essential service flights providing public health critical flights and public safety to various critical government agencies and supply chain providers.”

The airline has already delayed plans to offer flights from Waterloo Region to Ottawa and Montreal.

The market value of 210 kilos of cocaine in Canada will vary depending on its purity. But a case in Windsor in February, in which a Quebec truck driver was arrested with 80 kilograms of cocaine, assessed its value at $8.8 million.

At that price, the Pivot Reserve would be worth over $23 million.