Portugal seizes tonnes of cocaine hidden in banana shipments

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Lisbon, Portugal — Portuguese police said on Thursday they found just over 8 metric tons (8.8 short tons) of cocaine concealed in shipments of bananas from Colombia.

The cocaine was hidden in the hold of three cargo ships which docked in Setubal, a port about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the Portuguese capital Lisbon, police said.

The ships made regular crossings of the Atlantic and the cocaine was destined for several European countries, according to the police.

The seizure took place in recent weeks, police said, but a statement gave no specific date.

Although large cocaine seizures are not uncommon in Portugal or the rest of Europe, police said it was one of the largest ever in the country. The drugs have an estimated local market value of more than 300 million euros ($315 million).

Europe is currently the world’s largest cocaine market, the statement said.

So far this year, Portuguese police have seized just over 12 tonnes of cocaine, an increase of nearly 23% on last year’s total.

The European Union police agency Europol and other European police forces cooperated in the operation.

Meanwhile, police in northern Portugal said they worked with the Guardia Civil in neighboring Spain to dismantle an alleged criminal network building powerful speedboats for Spanish gangs.

The boats are used to transport drugs, usually hashish, from Morocco to Spain and Portugal. Spain banned the boats four years ago in a bid to crack down on smuggling.

Portuguese police seized 21 speedboats at various stages of construction, while Spanish police made 72 arrests in Spain, a statement said.

Also on Thursday, police in southern Spain said they busted a drug smuggling ring and seized 1.2 metric tons (1.3 short tons) of hashish hidden in a factory warehouse.

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