Colombian police find 1,300kg of cocaine hidden in potatoes
Bananas have become the new favourite tool of cocaine smugglers who are bringing the Class A drug into Europe.
Last week at a port in Essex, UK police uncovered half a tonne of cocaine that was hidden in a shipment of bananas on a boat originating from Colombia.
In Colombia, a kilo of cocaine can be bought for £3,200, compared to a value of £30,000 in the UK and smugglers are increasingly using bananas as a cover to transport it across the Atlantic.
In June, at the port of Setubal in Portugal, a further eight tonnes of cocaine was found concealed within a shipment of the fruit from Colombia.
Perhaps even more shockingly, just weeks earlier, 840kg worth of cocaine bricks were found hidden among bananas that were unpacked at Czech Republic supermarkets – and it’s not the first time it's happened.
According to VICE’s drugs journalist Max Daly, it’s a trend we will continue to see as bananas become the “go-to cover” for moving kilos worth of cocaine from Latin America to Europe and the UK.
Why? Well Latin America is a huge exporter of bananas – a product that is highly popular in Europe (the UK is Europe’s largest consumer of the fruit). It is also one of the biggest producers of cocaine – another product Europeans are a big consumer of.
According to organised crime consultant and former head of drug threat and intelligence at the National Crime Agency, Tony Saggers, smuggling is happening in various ways.
Sometimes, legitimate banana shipments are infiltrated by drug smugglers who hide packages of cocaine amongst the product before they’re removed once reaching their destination.
Or, smugglers can set up their own front or utilise fake documents to use banana shipments as a cover for their operation.
Saggers told VICE: “Bananas and cocaine are from the same regional origin and both are high-demand consumables in the UK.
“It, therefore, makes sense to utilise the legitimate presence of one to cover and conceal the other, towards the same entry points and markets.
“Traffickers will know that hundreds of banana consignments will embark on UK-bound journeys and to some extent play on the law of averages in terms of disruption.”
Another reason bananas are used as a cover for drug smugglers is that the product is perishable, meaning it is transported in shipping containers with thicker walls and cooling units with places to hide bricks of the drug. As well as that, customs authorities are under pressure to process the shipment quickly and can’t search every consignment.
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