Record cocaine haul

news: Record cocaine haul

IN THE largest ever drugs haul in Portugal, and the most important in Europe this year, the Polícia Judiciária (PJ) have seized a staggering 4,500 kilos of cocaine – that is enough, according to police sources, to give each person living in Portugal today four-and-a-half doses each!

During the swoop on a warehouse in Almeirim (central Portugal), four men were detained, including two businessmen aged 44 and 52, both described as “well known” and “experienced” in the international haulage business.

A PJ spokesman revealed that one of the men was already under investigation in Spain in relation to the importation of 200kg of cocaine and was suspected by Spanish authorities to be one of the main players in international drugs trafficking.

It is thought that only a small amount of the drug would have stayed in Portugal, with the rest being transported to Spain, where it would be distributed to other European countries.

The four detainees, who were allegedly caught red-handed, were arrested after a two-month operation culminating in the tailing of the two businessmen to the warehouse, where police hoped they would load a large lorry, which arrived shortly afterwards with about one tonne of the drug, which would have been hidden in a false bottom in the base of the container of the lorry.

Beside the two businessmen, two men aged 29 and 37, said to be of Colombian origin, were also arrested. The lorry driver, who left the scene immediately after parking the lorry, was not arrested and police declined to say if they believed him to be implicated in the crime or not.

A PJ spokesman explained that, in view of the large amount of drugs involved, the PJ considered the Almeirim warehouse to be one of the biggest cocaine storehouses in Europe. He said that the isolated position of the warehouse, in an area of low population and with a traditionally low police presence were all factors contributing to the choice of the Almeirim location.

Nevertheless, the investigation concluded that the owner of the warehouse, contrary to what police had expected, was not involved in the crime and had no knowledge of the activities taking place on his property.

So far, investigations have shown that the cocaine came from South America, probably Colombia. In addition to being an all time Portuguese record, the haul represents more cocaine than was seized in Portugal during the whole of 2004.