By Jonathan Mason-June 14th, 2023.
Police in Uruguay say they have broken up an international drugs ring which smuggled cocaine from South America to Europe hidden inside surfboards.
With help from counter-narcotics police in Spain, Portugal and Italy, three Italian citizens were arrested.
Sniffer dogs had alerted officers in Uruguay to six surfboards containing a total of 50kg (110lb) of cocaine.
Police allowed one surfboard to be air freighted to Italy in order to track down those receiving it.
A photo supplied by Uruguay’s interior ministry shows white powder spilling from one of the boards after it had been cut open.
Two Italian nationals were arrested by police in Portugal as they went to pick up the cocaine-filled surfboard which police had allowed through.
A third Italian citizen, who police say dispatched the drugs from Uruguay to Europe, was detained in Italy.
The Uruguayan prosecutor’s office said that the transatlantic operation was “a model of international co-operation”.
Drug traffickers are increasingly using Uruguay, which borders Brazil and Argentina, as a transit country to ship drugs from drug-producing parts of South America to Europe.
Uruguay’s interior minister has said that the country is fully committed to the fight against drug-trafficking and that controls at the country’s ports and border crossings are key to disrupting drug shipments.
Police think the Italian smugglers entered Uruguay across the land border with Brazil and then travelled on to Argentina after posting the surfboards. Uruguay, sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, has become in recent years a major transit point for cocaine from Colombia and Peru bound for Europe.
This is by no means the first case in which smugglers have been caught attempting to smuggle cocaine internationally concealed in surfboards, but surely authorities will now be on the lookout for overweight surfboards.
Sources: AFP, BBC, MSN. Uruguay National Police.