PJ police are celebrating the shutting down of a sophisticated cocaine extraction laboratory in Lisbon. It is the first operation of its kind in Portugal and one almost unheard of in Europe.
Drugs squad chief inspector António Morais told TSF radio that a similar laboratory had been found in Spain – but this involved a different kind of ‘cover’.
In the latest case, bottles of “cachaça” – a distilled spirit made from sugar cane – imported from Brazil “hid” cocaine hydrochloride dissolved into the liquid.
A “very complex” process, using exact mixtures and requiring “specialist chemical knowledge” was then required to extract the drug from the alcohol.
According to TSF, the PJ estimate that the Lisbon lab must have extracted 40-50 kilos of the drug before it came to their notice.
Giving no details as to geographical location, Morais simply said that a manual on how to go about planting and extracting cocaine into liquid was seized in the bust, “which was very interesting”.
That manual has now been passed on to European narcotics authorities, and may help keep police ‘ahead of the game’ in the future.
Certainly, this was an “almost unheard of” operation, said Morais, and saw “around 7.5 kilos” of cocaine apprehended, along with four men – two Portuguese and two Brazilians – “all the equipment necessary to extract cocaine hydrochloride and prepare it for sale” as well as a “top-of-the-range vehicle”.
As the men detained – ranging in ages from 32 to 48 – sit it out awaiting trial in jail, police in Brazil have been busy rounding up their side of the operation, dubbed Operation “Cardume” (literal translation ‘school of fish’).
“Cardume” has seen a further 28 people in jail as well as the seizing of various bank accounts and properties.
Some of the accounts are in the names of Portuguese citizens, adds TSF.