The plane was making a stopover in Seville, Spain before heading to this week’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan when the Brazilian air force officer was detained.
The officer was “suspected of transporting narcotic substances,” the Brazilian Defence Military said in a statement to CNN, which prompted officials to search the plane.
Spanish police said cocaine was found in suitcases.
The drugs amount to approximately 39 kilograms, Brazil’s military police said in the statement.
“We are investigating the facts and are launching a military police inquiry,” the military police said.
At the time, President Jair Bolsonaro was aboard a separate plane, reportedly travelling ahead of the one in question. Military personnel were travelling with the president as protection.
In a tweet, Bolsonaro confirmed he had been briefed on the arrest and called the incident “unacceptable.”
He called for an “immediate investigation and severe punishment.”
A Brazillian television network identified the suspect as 38-year-old Sgt. Silva Rodrigues, CNN reported.
Brazilian vice-president Hamilton Mourao later told reporters in Brasilia, Brazil that the officer suspected of carrying the drugs was expected to join the president’s plane after the stopover in Spain to be on hand for their arrival in Japan, according to Reuters.
He called the airman a “well-qualified (drug) mule.”
“Obviously, given the quantity of the drug he was carrying, he didn’t buy it on the corner and bring it, right?” Mourao said.
The suspect is reportedly being held without bail in Spain.
—With files from Reuters