The sergeant, whose identity was not revealed, reportedly fled when the Venezuelan authorities decided to inspect the aircraft, according to the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB).

According to local authorities, officials from the Regional Anti-Drug Intelligence Unit of the state of Vargas (north of Caracas), confiscated "eight pockets containing 124 bars of alleged cocaine" that were found in the crew area of a TAP plane.

The weight of the 124 bars is yet to be determined.

The Venezuelan police prevented the take-off of a TAP cargo plane, which was due to make a flight between Maiquetía (north of Caracas) and Lisbon, after detecting an undetermined quantity of narcotics in the aircraft's fuselage.

The inspection of the aircraft, an A330neo, involved dogs from division 43 of the Bolivarian National Guard (military police) and was carried out as part of the preparations for the cargo transport trip that TAP currently makes every week between Caracas and Lisbon.

TAP's source in Caracas, contacted by Lusa news agency, said they had "no knowledge" of the situation, and said they would send any information to the company in Portugal.

In Lisbon, an official TAP source confirmed to Lusa news agency that the flight, exclusively cargo Caracas - Lisbon, of 5 May, "was cancelled and the local authorities are conducting investigations into products of a possible narcotics nature, which were found in the cargo hold, in a compulsory civil aviation security control action under the responsibility of the Bolivarian National Guard".

"The three crew members of this cargo flight are in the hotel and TAP is providing full cooperation and information to the local authorities," added the same company source in Lisbon.