This is a story that just keeps on growing; A story that raises troubling questions about who knew what and when.
W5 Producer Eric Szeto and I are digging deep into the Pivot Airlines ordeal now that the crew is safely back in Canada. After being found and reporting 210 kilograms of cocaine in his 50-seat jet, he was detained for eight months under virtual house arrest in the Dominican Republic.
Gathered for the first time since their release in December of 2022, the crew are demanding answers from the Canadian government about why they were left on the tropical island for so long to “do their job.”
He thought he would be hailed as a hero. Instead, Dominican authorities accused him of being part of an international crime syndicate, even though he was never questioned and never charged.
Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra Promised to investigate. The RCMP cryptically says, “The RCMP does not confirm, deny or release information related to an active investigation.”
And yet neither transportation officials nor Mounties have interviewed the crew, nor have they shared details on the status of those potential investigations.
Pilot Rob DiVenzo tells W5, “I’ve been through enough. I’m going to fight until we figure out why this happened. I’m not walking away.”
His co-pilot Atif Safdar is equally annoyed by the silence of the Canadian authorities. “They don’t want to investigate. They don’t want to talk about it.”
Four Pivot Airlines crew members reunite for the first time since their release from the Dominican Republic last December (W5)
His ordeal started almost a year ago.
On March 31, 2022, the five-person crew departed Toronto’s Pearson Airport for a four-day charter.
His nightmare began as he was preparing to leave Punta Cana airport in the Dominican Republic. A warning light led to the discovery of drugs in the aircraft’s avionics bay.
W5 initial check, cocaine cargoopen statement about shady criminal history of many passengers in the flight. We discovered that the charter hire company did not exist. We uncovered the person who paid for the flights: an Edmonton real estate consultant named Vic Mander.
Former RCMP investigator Gary Clement has looked at research compiled by W5 and says he doesn’t understand why the RCMP is so quiet about a plot to smuggle hundreds of kilos of cocaine into Canada.
“It’s not a complicated case. I was surprised that more RCMP investigators weren’t jumping on all of this,” he told W5. He believes that among the crimes that should be investigated are: conspiracy to import cocaine, money laundering and possession of the proceeds of crime.
The RCMP have not questioned the alleged money-man, Vic Mander, and there is no evidence that the passengers have been questioned either.
The crew says their ordeal should be a red flag for any Canadians traveling to the tourist destination.
“We know the Dominican Republic is a drug-source country. We really need to step up our efforts and make sure the Canadians who are flying there are safe,” pilot DiVenango told W5.
“Airplanes continue to fly there. Canadians continue to vacation there. The Government of Canada has a responsibility to make sure those Canadians are as safe as they can be.”
FILE PHOTO: Captain Robert Di Venanzo (left) was stranded in the Dominican Republic for eight months from spring to December 2022.
W5 uncovers evidence of corruption at Punta Cana airport, specifically that an official airport truck was involved in carrying duffle bags of drugs onto aircraft and that surveillance video was edited to destroy the evidence
The crew, who pleaded with the Canadian government for months to get them home, felt abandoned while in the DR and said they were being abandoned even now that they were at home.
“Complete silence even today,” said a frustrated flight attendant Alex Roznov.
About the Canadian government, co-pilot Atif Safdar says, “They don’t want to investigate. They don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to answer.”
The new W5 investigation reveals who was behind the smuggling plot and what the RCMP knew about the scheme, and when. Watch Cocaine Cargo II Saturdays at 7pm on CTV.
Do you have any suggestions for this story? Please contact avery hannes Or Eric Szeto