Spanish Police Make Biggest Cocaine Bust in 18 Years

By The Maritime Executive 12-05-2017 07:32:46

Spain's interior ministry announced Tuesday that law enforcement officers have made the nation's largest cocaine bust in 18 years. Agents in Algeciras found nearly six tonnes of the drug stashed in banana boxes aboard the Banak, a container ship arriving from Medellin. 

Three individuals were arrested in connection with the discovery, including the head of the fruit and vegetable importer that had ordered the consignment. The cocaine was worth about $250 million on the street, and its final destination was El Prat de Llobregat, the site of Catalonia's international airport. 

The drug traffickers had concealed over 5,000 bundles of cocaine within one of six containers in a consignment of bananas. The packages had several different identification marks on the outside, suggesting that they were destined for different distributors. 

Tropical fruit is a typical cover for drug shipments bound for Europe, officials say. In years past, Spanish police have intercepted cocaine in hollowed-out pineapples, pallets of papayas, fake bananas, bags of coconuts, boxes of limes and other refrigerated goods, typically in smaller quantities of 100-200 kilos. By camouflaging their wares with perishable produce in reefer containers, the traffickers can be assured that their shipments will receive expedited handling (and perhaps less scrutiny) at the receiving port. 

The drug bust announced Tuesday was the second-largest in Spain’s history; its largest ever drug seizure also stemmed from a maritime interdiction. In 1999, the Spanish Customs Surveillance Service boarded a merchant vessel off the Canary Islands and discovered 10 tonnes of cocaine on board.