Cocaine-hidden-in-rice suspect awaits trial in jail

Following an alert by Interpol and intensified police hunt, Fernando Frutuoso, the Portuguese man believed to be a key element in a highly sophisticated cocaine-trafficking ring has been arrested and remanded in jail pending trial.

Frutuoso was found driving between Alcobaça and Aljubarrota on Wednesday afternoon. According to Correio da Manhã, he was found carrying 400 kilos of hashish, 900 grams of cocaine, two guns, bullets and “thousands of euros”.

Frutoso is already wanted by police in Argentina, writes CM, for his part in the ring that used rice being shipped by the UN to Guinea-Bissau as a ‘front’ for smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine out of South America.

The route was complex. Once the ‘rice’ arrived in Africa, it was picked up by bogus aid workers and then taken to a laboratory, where the cocaine was leached out of it, and restored to its former state. It was then shipped to Europe, for sale in Spain and Portugal.

Explaining the logistics to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, narcotics investigator Guillermo Gonzalez said it was the first time police had seen such chemical sophistication.

“Pure cocaine is too strong to be ingested without being cut with something”, he explained. Thus the rice may well have been used for this purpose as well.

As police in Argentina and Brazil moved in on the gang this summer, they were able to recover 30 tons of cocaine with a street value of over €1 million. But there is no telling how much of the drug had been successfully trafficked beforehand.

Frutuoso, 58, is unlikely to be released from custody before his trial date. A PJ source has told CM that he is further believed to have been an important figure in supplying Lisbon and central Portugal with drugs.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com