Law enforcement in Spain have seized 9.5 tons of cocaine hidden in banana shipments from Ecuador, marking the country’s largest ever drug bust.
The haul, worth an estimated street value of over $550 million, was uncovered by Spanish customs agents this week. The cocaine was ingeniously concealed among 1,080 boxes of bananas in a refrigerated shipping container.
Various logos were imprinted on the drug packages, believed to be codes used by the criminal syndicate due to receive the shipment once it arrived in Europe.
This shatters Spain’s previous record cocaine seizure in 2018, when authorities uncovered 8.4 tons masked in banana crates. Investigations into this smuggling network began in July, when police got intel about an imminent large-scale cocaine shipment routed through Ecuador.
The organization operated out of a banana exporting company in Ecuador, exporting up to 40 drug-filled containers per month along with legitimate fruit shipments. The confiscated drugs were destined for Portugal before wider distribution across Europe, authorities said.
The bust deals a major blow to one of the world’s most significant cocaine trafficking groups. But no arrests have been made yet as investigations continue.
With multi-ton busts happening more frequently, authorities are ramping up efforts against brazen tactics used by smugglers. The 9.5 ton seizure shows traffickers will go to great lengths to conceal drugs in unsuspecting shipments.
But improved law enforcement intelligence and collaboration has led to landmark cocaine interdictions, inflicting damage on dangerous criminal enterprises. Spain has now broken its own record twice in just a few years, stripping billions in illicit revenue from these organizations.