MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY – Authorities in Uruguay seized a record breaking 4.4 tonnes of cocaine at Montevideo’s port. Last Friday the 27th of December, the country’s Navy described the haul as “the biggest blow to drug trafficking in the country’s history.”
Uruguay’s customs and navy carried out a joint operation in which four containers that were supposed to be carrying soy flour, were actually loaded with bags of cocaine. Authorities made the seizure after the contained showed “anomalies” when they were put through scanners at the port of Montevideo.
In the the first couple containers investigated, authorities found, “a total of 4,418 kilograms of cocaine corresponding to 4,003 bricks,” according to a statement by the navy.
Jaime Borgiani who is Uruguay’s customs director, has estimated the haul would be worth a billion dollars in the US if it had made it to the European market.
There is an increase in Uruguay being used as a transition point for for cocaine produced in Latin America to be transported to Europe and Africa.
Previously, the biggest cocaine seizure record for Uruguay was when three tonnes were discovered in a container headed for Africa through Montevideo’s port back in November.
It is currently unknown where the cocaine haul originated from, but Borgiani stated “it was loaded” onto trucks at a ranch in the south-western Soriano department on Tuesday, which is located 290 kilometers, or 180 miles away from Montevideo.
A new local exporter was identified that raised suspicions from authorities, then they carried out the seizure operation.
Uruguay’s interior ministry gave a statement on Twitter and confirmed that police raided the ranch where the cocaine was coming from, the owner and his son were arrested. The statement also adds that an unspecified amount of drugs were also confiscated at the ranch.
Jaime Borgiani said, “The important thing is to show the world and drug traffickers that you don’t mess around with Uruguayan customs. We’ve taken the necessary steps to rid the country of this scourge.”
Navy spokesman Diego Perona previously said to journalists that the first container’s inventory contained, “3,089 bricks of cocaine each weighing 1.1 kilograms,” or 2.4 pounds each.
“The drug has been detected in four scanned containers,” Perona said.
The containers were supposed to be loaded onto an Italian-registered ship, according to local media.
The four soy flour containers were supposed to headed for Lome, which is the capital of Togo.
The soy company owner is being questioned by authorities, along with truck drivers and an export agent who transported the containers to the port.
Back in August, customs in Germany seized 4.5 tonnes of cocaine with a street value estimated at $1.1 billion from a container that arrived from Uruguay in Hamburg. The containers were said to contain soybeans according to the manifest.
Also in August, one tonne of cocaine was seized in an eastern seaside town of Uruguay.
Those events in August happened after France confiscated 600 kilograms of “remarkably pure” cocaine in May from a private jet that came from Uruguay.
The largest producers of the coca leaf, which is the primary ingredient of cocaine, are Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia.