‘It’s Bananas!’: Spanish Authorities Intercept 9.5 Tons of Cocaine Smuggled in Shipping Containers

TOPSHOT - Spanish National Police and Customs officers hold some packages of cocaine total

Authorities in Spain uncovered 9.5 tons of cocaine hidden in refrigerated banana containers from Ecuador.

Around 40 containers were being sent to Spain each month to the shipping ports of Algeciras and Vigo in the northeast, the New York Post reported. Logistics were being organized through a banana company operating out of the Ecuadorian port of Machala.

“The criminal organization — responsible for the supply of cocaine to the most powerful networks in Europe — had an extensive business network for the shipment of maritime containers from Ecuador to Spain,” the police said.

The shipping containers — which could hold 1,080 bananas — were smuggling boxes of cocaine that were labeled with the logos of 30 different crime rings.

The investigation began in July after police were tipped off of an incoming shipment of Columbian cocaine. The drugs were found in August, and no arrests have been made. The shipments were supposed to be moved to Portugal.

The bust was announced on Friday through a joint operation between the National Police and the Spanish Tax Agency’s Customs Vigilance Service.

Prior to this shipment, authorities seized the largest cocaine smuggling scheme in the country in 2018 after finding 8.4 tons in a banana shipment.

In February, Ecuadorian authorities found $330 million of cocaine also in banana shipping containers headed to Belgium, the BBC reported. The country is the largest exporter of bananas in the world, and drug smugglers will often take advantage of their high shipping demands.

In addition to utilizing shipping containers, officials found that drug smugglers are utilizing semi-submersibles to transport cocaine across international waters, the Daily Mail reported:

Official data on the number of narco-subs smuggling drugs into the US is yet to be released, but an audit of publicly available U.S. Coast Guard busts by DailyMail.com has found at least $1billion worth of cocaine has been seized from these boats since 2015.

Given that the audit was only of cases already made public, the real figure is likely to be much higher.

Maritime police insist they are getting better at intercepting the boats, but operation commanders have compared scouring the open ocean for 20 foot semi-submersibles to a pair of police cars patrolling the entire country.

Officials expect drug dealers to operate these semi-submersibles through a remote controller in the safety of headquarters in the near future.


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