IN THE early hours of last Friday morning (February 17), police in the Algarve seized eight tons of cocaine, the largest seizure ever to take place in Portugal and the biggest in Europe this year, representing a street value of between 250 and 300 million euros.
The police were successful in arresting seven Spanish individuals (six men and one woman aged between 30 and 55) in connection with the haul, all thought to be members of a major international drugs ring. Around 50 inspectors were involved in the mega operation, which included members of the drugs section of the criminal investigation unit of Portimão, Faro PJ and the central bureau for investigation into drug crime. The police are confident of making further arrests in the future.
The majority of the drugs were found in an agricultural warehouse, located between Messines and Silves, and the remaining quantity was found in a refrigerated lorry intercepted in Grândola, not far from Lisbon. The packages found at the warehouse were covered in green cloths, the type used to cover fresh vegetables, while those in the lorry were disguised by a significant quantity of cauliflower. In addition to the drugs found at the warehouse and in the lorry, a smaller quantity was discovered in a Volvo intercepted at the entrance to the Via do Infante in Lagoa. Cocaine packages had been stuffed under the seats and the side panels of the vehicle.
The cocaine is thought to have come from Latin America, reaching the Algarve by sea. Police believe the drugs were bound for the north of Portugal where they were due to be distributed to various locations throughout Europe.