Croatian police confiscated nearly 600 kilograms of cocaine concealed in a shipment of bananas arriving from South America at the Adriatic port of PloÄe. Officials say that with increased checks at ports in western and northern Europe, organized crime appears to be seeking alternative routs in the south of the continent.
With an estimated value of almost 60 million euros ($ 72 million), the drug seizure is one of the largest ever in Croatia. Police dogs discovered the drugs in the walls of the container coming from Ecuador, Dubrovnik-Neretva County police said, showing a video detection.
âWe saw that the German, Dutch and Belgian police seized 20 tons of cocaine earlier this year, so we can now assume that an arm of what is happening in Europe these days has been redirected to seaports in Croatia, Greece and Italy, therefore bypassing the seaports of Western and Northern Europe, âsaid Dubrovnik-Neretva County Police Chief Ivan PavliÄeviÄ.
No arrests have yet been made but the investigation is ongoing, he added.
Criminal Police Chief Zoran Tikvica said the shipment was addressed to a company based in one of Croatia’s neighboring countries, without revealing which one.
Croatian media cited police sources as saying the container was addressed to a company in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that Croatian investigators were working closely with their Bosnian colleagues to locate the suspects.
Bosnian authorities have not commented on the case.
Police chief PavliÄeviÄ stressed that southern European seaports are becoming increasingly attractive to drug traffickers, who are now trying to avoid better-controlled ports in Western and Northern Europe.
The port of PloÄe appears to be attractive for drug traffickers, as it is not equipped with special x-ray monitors for containers, so illegal goods can only be detected by random inspections or sniffer dogs.
Three major drug seizures have been made at the port since the start of this year, according to Croatian customs officials.
“Customs and police are exercising increased surveillance in the seaport of PloÄe,” said Croatian customs official Pero PeriÄ, announcing that a cargo x-ray scanning portal would soon be purchased for the port of PloÄe , one of the largest in Croatia.
Local journalists speculated that the Croatian authorities acted on information received from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI, but police officials refused to confirm or deny such claims. claiming only that their operation was coordinated with the country’s customs administration and the State Prosecutor’s Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption (USKOK).