585 kilograms of cocaine from Latin America was seized by police in Thessaloniki, Greece and seven people suspected of being members of a criminal gang were arrested.
The alleged ringleader of the gang, which had been under police surveillance, is a 50-year-old Albanian national and the gang included his wife, his two nieces, and three others.
The gang was broken up after police stopped 21-year-old man in the city and found 239 packages of cocaine weighing 280 kg in total.
Ten minutes later, in another part of the city, a 33-year-old man was apprehended after he tried to escape from police. He had tried to ram a police car and crashed into a school fence. A search of his vehicle yielded 238 packages of cocaine, weighing 277 kg in total.
In a search of the alleged ringleader’s house, police found another 23 packages of cocaine, weighing 26 kg, €7,440 in cash, 7 mobile phones 4 bank cards and other equipment.
Police photographs of the drug haul suggest some of the packages were labeled with Nazi swastikas.
Last May, Peruvian authorities seized packages of cocaine marked with Nazi swastikas as well as the name “Hitler” at a port in northern Peru, from where would have been shipped to Belgium.
Cocaine seized in Thessaloniki, Greece
This is the second time in a space of a few months that police in Thessaloniki seized a large shipment of cocaine.
In June, officers of the drug enforcement unit found 161 kilograms of cocaine in packages that had been stuffed into hidden compartments in the shipping container. The haul was estimated to have a street value of at least 3.2 million euros.
The operation was connected to a similar haul of more than 100 kilograms of cocaine that was intercepted in early May, also at Thessaloniki port and again in a shipment of bananas from Latin America.
That operation led to the arrest of 10 suspects in Greece and another four in North Macedonia, who are believed to be part of an international drug smuggling racket.
In April this year, $164m of cocaine hidden inside ventilation ducts was found by Italian authorities on a Greek ship off Venice.
A total of 570 packages were found, weighing 850 kg.
Global cocaine production on the rise
A recent report reveals that global cocaine production has reached an all-time high as demand surges following Covid lockdowns.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported a 35% increase in coca cultivation from 2020 to 2021, resulting in record production levels.
The findings indicate that West and Central Africa have become new hubs for drug trafficking. In addition, traffickers are increasingly utilizing international postal services to deliver drugs to consumers.
During the Covid-related lockdowns, the use of parcel and courier services saw a significant uptick due to restrictions on passenger flights, according to the Global Report on Cocaine.
The report highlights an increase in West African countries employing well-established, global postal services and smaller shipping companies to smuggle cocaine to Europe and beyond.