Rob Di Venanzo and his crew are seeking assistance from the Prime Minister after being wrongly jailed in the Dominican Republic when they reported cocaine hidden in their plane to authorities.
A Guelph pilot and his crew are openly begging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “show Canadians you have their backs” and bring them home after being arrested and jailed in the Dominican Republic after reporting the finding of cocaine aboard their plane in early April.
“We did our job by reporting these drugs and saving Canadian lives. Now we need you to do your job,” said Rob Di Venanzo in a video statement issued Wednesday by Pivot Airlines. His comments are directed at Trudeau. “Please, show the world Canada will step up for truth, justice, and, more importantly, the safety of Canadians.”
Di Venanzo and four crew members worry they will be detained again soon, as the Dominican Republic prosecutor is appealing a court order to release them on bail. They are now being safeguarded by private security hired by their company while awaiting word on their fate.
— Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas (@DNCDRD) April 7, 2022
“In a shocking move, the prosecutor has recently filed an appeal of the court’s decision to grant our crew bail, despite having no evidence tying them to a crime,” said Pivot Airlines CEO Eric Edmondson via email. “It is now well known that our crew reported over 200 kg in narcotics; placing them back in jail alongside alleged narcotics criminals will put them at serious risk of harm, without the protection of the private security we have hired.
“They are worried that a return to Dominican jail will be a one-way trip.”
Di Venanzo Guelph reported a fellow crew member’s discovery of cocaine to Canadian authorities during a trip to the Caribbean nation in early April, prompting a Dominican Republic police raid and the arrest of everyone on board the plane, according to the airline and unions, despite government claims that the arrests came after it received a tip about drug smuggling.
According to a press release from the Dominican Republic’s National Directorate for Drug Control, about 200 pounds of cocaine were recovered.
“It is entirely unacceptable that our members have been thrown in jail for doing their jobs, and dutifully reporting a crime,” said Capt. Tim Perry, president of Air Line Pilots Association International Canada in a news release, issued jointly with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Unifor, which each represent members of the crew. “We are urging the Canadian government to take serious action and help bring our crew home.” Following their arrest, the crew was sent to jail where they were “subject to threats against their lives, inhumane treatment,” said Edmondson.
According to reports, they were held in crowded cells spanning 13 feet by 13 feet, were subjected to multiple threats and extortion attempts from other detainees, were denied food and drink, and were restricted to the area around a hole in the floor that served as a toilet.
“We are living a nightmare,” Di Venanzo said in the video.
“We know the Dominican Republic could send us back to jail any moment.”
A fellow crew member says in the video that they haven’t been charged, questioned, interviewed, or probed in connection with narcotics smuggling at this time.
“The Canadian government needs to do all in its power to bring the Pivot Airlines crew safely back home,” said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor’s national president, in the news release. “Our member is a part-time worker, who had the misfortune of becoming entangled in a dangerous situation, after finding and reporting illegal drugs onboard. Our union joins his family and friends in their concern for his safety. We need the federal government to intervene immediately.”
“While we are grateful for the support of the Government of Canada in improving the safety of our crew to date, the simple fact is they have not done enough to safely return our crew to Canada. Our crew misses their families,” said Edmondson. “They fear for their lives, as well their mental and physical wellbeing. And they want to come home.”
MP Lloyd Longfield recently met with the minister of global affairs as well as Pivot Airlines to discuss the problem, according to a statement released to GuelphToday.
“The government of Canada’s first priority is always the safety and security of its citizens,” the statement reads. “Canadian officials continue to monitor the situation closely, are engaging with local authorities, and providing consular assistance.
“Due to privacy considerations, I cannot provide any further information to respect those involved directly with this situation.”
It was unable to reach Di Venanzo, who has given countless media interviews.