Local October 26, 2011 | 7:48 am

Another major scandal rocks Dominican military

Santo Domingo. – The airplane stolen from La Isabela International Airport (AILI) in Higüero was flown out of the country by two foreign pilots linked to drug trafficking, allegedly helped by Army lieutenant John E. Percival Matos, according to the investigation thus far.

The case is the latest involving members of the military in drug scandal, which include former Army captain Quirino Paulino, the Navy officers in the Paya, Bani murders of seven Colombians, Army colonel José Amado Gonzalez in the Puerto Rican kingpin Jose Figueroa Agosto, among others.

The twin turboprop property of the resort group Puntacana flew toward Venezuela, according to Las Americas International Airport’s air traffic control radar.

Percival Matos, son of retired general Rafael Percival Peña, was arrested Tuesday, said Airport Security Corp and Civil Aviation (CESAC) spokesman Fidel Sanchez. Percival Peña was also arrested on charges of drug trafficking, but rejoined the military in 2001 as a lieutenant colonel.

Investigators said the junior officer helped the plane’s thieves by hiding to wait for the airport to close in hangar 26, of the company Aerointer, where his wife Ginsellys Halversoni Vásquez had worked for three weeks. He then refueled the Cessna King Air 200 with fuel stolen from another craft in hangar 16 of the company Santo Domingo Motors.

Percival Matos was reportedly paid as much as US$350,000 to help steal the plane valued at 2.5 million dollars.

Security agencies determined that an airport sentry heard an aircraft at 3:00am Sunday and went to check the hangars along with an official of the airports management company Aerodom, and then the watchmen of the hangar of the carrier SAP radioed that they had heard the sound of a plane in the back part of the facility

The plane took off with its lights and those of the runway turned off, but the control Las Americas tower detected it after it had set course for South America.

At 8:30am that same Sunday a Puntacana employee reported the theft of the plane registry N871C.

Percival Matos was arrested yesterday and sent to Police headquarters for interrogation by the commission in charge of the case, headed by the CESAC, the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (IDAC) and other agencies.

The suspect is reportedly the brother in-law of retired lieutenant colonel Jose Miguel Gonzales Vanderhorst, serving time in Najayo prison on a drugs conviction.

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