The Italian police have seized almost 1.2 tonnes of cocaine in Reggio Calabria, in the south of the country last week, making it the sixth largest seizure in Italian history.
The drug was concealed in 144 boxes of bananas inside on board a ship originating in South America with a cargo destined for Germany. It is estimated to have had a street value of at least 250 million euros, police said in a statement.
Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese thanked the Regional Anti-Mafia Directorate, the Carabinieri of Reggio Calabria and the local Guardia Finanza for what is “one of the most the most important seizures of cocaine carried out on the national territory.”
The operation was carried out between the Carabinieri and the Customs Agency of Gioia Tauro with the assistance of Europol, the EU police coordination agency.
The seizure confirmed the “central role of the port of Gioia Tauro as a priority transit node for large cocaine trafficking” the Carabinieri said in a statement.
The ‘Ndrangheta are believed to have controlled Gioia Tauro, Italy’s largest container port, for years, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
In the past 12 months alone, the Guardia Finanza and the Customs Agency have seized over 2.5 tonnes of cocaine at Gioia Tauro.
According to Europol estimates, on a global scale the cocaine business is worth at least 300 billion euros a year with an estimated total production of around 2,000 tons. Some 700 tons of which ends up in Europe, while the most of the rest goes to supply the North American market.
A 2006 report commissioned by Italy’s anti-Mafia commission estimated 80 percent of cocaine that enters Europe flowed through Gioia Tauro.