Second French spy plane spotted in Malta, suggests continued secret service activity

A second French spy plane spotted in Malta is unmistakably similar to the same one employed in the spy operation that was based in Malta revealed a few weeks ago by MaltaToday

The charred remains of the French spy plane that crashed in 2016, which left five secret agents dead
The charred remains of the French spy plane that crashed in 2016, which left five secret agents dead

A spy operation similar to the French operation revealed a few weeks ago by MaltaToday could still be taking place from Malta, according to flight patterns seen by this newspaper.

Evidence shown to this newspaper suggests that even after the 2016 plane crash that killed five French secret agents in Malta, a similar operation based on the island to rendezvous over Libya is ongoing.

Sources who spoke to MaltaToday said that the plane that crashed in Safi in 2016 was not the only active French spy plane, and that at least one more is active and used Malta as a temporary base up until last November at least.

A Swearingen Fairchild Merlin – the same exact type of aircraft that was consumed in the 2016 tragedy – was landing in Malta and flying over Libya at regular intervals.

Just like the plane that crashed in Safi, the French-operated Swearingen is a US-registered aircraft. But a former French intelligence agent specialised in aircraft intelligence, who spoke to MaltaToday, said there were two reasons for the US registration.

“France is stricter than the United States as to what kind of technology can be implemented on an aircraft. The second reason is that had the aircraft been registered in France, it would be prohibited from using American technology,” he said.

This technology is surveillance equipment that allows the Swearingen to spy on ground movements in Libya.

The Swearingen Fairchild Merlin, with registration number N919CK – owned by Luxembourg-based CAE Aviation – was indeed photographed at the Malta International Airport back in 2016, its photo uploaded on an air-spotting website by amateur spotters. CAE has already been identified as a contractor of the DGSE, which registered the same plane that crashed in Malta.

This is the same plane that others sources have told MaltaToday is actually carrying out a surveillance mission over Libya.

This means that, essentially, two planes were spying on the movement of French weapons in Libya, using Malta as an airbase – one of which crashed, the other is still out there now.

Both the French ministry of foreign affairs and the Maltese ministry of home affairs could not be reached for comment by this newspaper.
Brigitte Curmi, French Ambassador to Libya between 2016 and August 2018 and current French Ambassador to Malta, did not accede to a meeting with MaltaToday.

This newspaper is also informed that the families of the men who died in the 2016 crash, were taking the DGSE to court. “It’s very rare that this happens,” a French journalist who has met the relatives told MaltaToday. “But the reason why, they tell me, is that the plane they were on was in production between 1965 and 1998. It’s a fairly old aircraft that is subject to a few operational errors.”

What we know so far

  • A Swearingen Fairchild Merlin crashed on 24 October 2016 in Safi
  • A source close to the Maltese investigation said this was a French spy plane carrying out surveillance of the movements of French armaments in Libya
  • The Maltese Prime Minister insisted it had been a French Customs operation
  • The aircraft was supplied with two black boxes but these went missing when French investigators came to Malta
  • French secret agents used a home in Balzan to review eagle-eye footage they received directly from the aircraft
  • The deceased were all members of the DGSE and their names were revealed by MaltaToday in November
  • When confronted with this new information, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat played it down and said that the aircraft was monitoring contraband and human trafficking and found no issue with other forms of surveillance
  • Ex-foreign minister George Vella, who was the foreign minister at the time of the crash, however, said that had he known of what the aircraft was doing, the Maltese government would not have allowed it

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