Italian authorities have seized a Greek shipping vessel loaded with cocaine, belonging to Greek shipowner Panagiotis Laskaridis.
Italian authorities found the vessel loaded with cocaine after searching it in Venice. Authorities seized some 850 kilograms of cocaine, worth more than 150 million euros.
Shipping media reported that the ship, the Atlas, belongs to the Laskaridis Shipping company of well-known Greek shipowner Panagiotis Laskaridis. It is currently under a Liberian flag.
The investigation began on 18 April, with Italian authorities searching the vessel to discover the drugs packed in 570 packages weighing 850 kilograms. The packages were found in the vessel’s hull area below the waterline.
According to media reports, the ship remains in Venice port, where it arrived on 17 April. The ship left Brazil on 23 March.
None of the crew have yet been arrested.
Laskaridis Shipping said it is collaborating with Italian authorities after the smuggled goods were found. The company said that the sea inlet, where the drugs were found, is a part of the vessel not accessible to crew. The area can only be accessed by divers.
“The crew cooperated fully with the competent authorities during the preliminary investigations. The competent police and prosecuting authorities found that neither the ship nor the crew were involved in any way in the relevant incident,” said the shipping company.
Meanwhile, Italian authorities have permitted the ship to continue its existing commercial activities.
Europol recently issued a report about criminal networks in EU ports, in partnership with the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Hamburg/Bremerhaven. The report estimates that some 200 tonnes of cocaine have been trafficked through the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam in recent years.
A new method used by criminal networks is misappropriated container reference codes, or PIN code fraud. Corrupt employees of logistics companies provide drug smugglers with a reference code, and a driver to pick up the container using the reference code. Gangs do not need a physical presence within the port area.
The Laskaridis family is well-known in Greece for its charitable activities, especially related to environmental protection.
Recent investigations, however, have raised concerns over Laskaridis shipping company’s environmental practices after a Laskaridis reefer spent a month in protected waters in Antarctica. Reefers have a high rate of failing port inspections, and dominate transhipping practices where a catch is transferred from one vessel to another- usually from a fishing ship to a reefer.
The Laskaridis family has denied any wrongdoing.
Image via Pixabay