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Cocaine Smuggling in Banana Containers at the Port of Rotterdam

drug smuggling at the Port of Rotterdam
The cocaine was founding hidden in a container of bananas - courtesy of Openbaar Ministerie

By The Maritime Executive 08-13-2020 03:33:02

A joint investigation team at the Port of Rotterdam intercepted 743 kilos of cocaine hidden in a container arriving in the port from Ecuador. The police estimated the street value of the narcotics at more than $66 million.

The investigators reported that they found the drugs hidden in a container of bananas arriving in Rotterdam on August 4 from Ecuador. Discovering drugs hidden in containers with shipments of fruit and produce is becoming increasingly common for the investigators. In fact, the Dutch media outlet NL Times said this was the fifth time this year that drugs were discovered in banana containers arriving in Rotterdam. 

Bananas arriving in refrigerated containers are popular as a cover cargo according to the investigators. In June 2020, they found over 2,000 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside another banana shipment arriving in a container from Guayaquil, Ecuador, consigned to Hungary. The month before that they discovered two containers of bananas holdings a total of 374 kilograms of cocaine. In 2019, drugs were also discovered in containers with barrels of fruit pulp, in between loads of mangoes and melons, and in shipping containers transporting sugar, tree trunks, and lime juice.

As part of the current case, the police also reported that a 29-year-old man from The Hague was arrested and has been arraigned.

The seizures are part of the ongoing efforts of the Hit And Run Cargo (HARC) team, a partnership of customs, FIOD, seaport police and the Public Prosecution Service in Rotterdam. The HARC team was formed in 1997 to investigate and prosecute crimes including drug trafficking through the Port of Rotterdam.

During 2019, the HARC team reported that it intercepted 33,732 kilos of cocaine in the Port of Rotterdam, almost twice as much as it caught in 2018.