Police in Spain have arrested two men after customs officers discovered 17kgs of cocaine concealed inside fake bananas.
The drugs were packed in 57 hollow banana skins made out of resin that had been hidden in a shipment of genuine fruit. A further 10kgs of cocaine was found inside flaps of the cardboard boxes the fruit was being transported in.
The discovery was made last November as part of an operation dubbed “Esplit”, but Spanish authorities have only just released details of the seizure.
Investigators from the Guardia Civil and Spanish customs authorities said the find led to the disruption of a major organised crime group that had been smuggling the drug into the county via Malaga and Valencia.
One Spanish national and a suspect from Italy have been charged with drug trafficking and membership of an organised criminal group as a result of the discovery. A second Italian man is under investigation in connection with the shipment.
Officials said the fake bananas looked so convincing that it was difficult to tell them apart from the real thing.
The Ruptly video news agency has posted a clip of Spanish police showing of the haul on YouTube.
The footage shows the fake bananas laid out on a table, before officers use a screwdriver and hammer to break one of them open, revealing cocaine wrapped in a black seal. The video also shows the packets of cocaine that were hidden in the flaps of the boxes the bananas were in.
The footage was shot in Valencia, according to Ruptly.
Consignments of fruit are a popular hiding place for drug smugglers looking to slip their products under the noses of European customs officials.
“Concealing the drugs within shipments of perishable goods is… a common tactic as there are procedures to allow these to pass through ports more quickly,” a special report on cocaine trafficking in Europe published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said last year.
In July 2016, investigators in Romania discovered 2.3 tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of €625 million hidden in banana crates on boats that had reportedly brought the drugs over from South America. Prosecutors said the high-purity cocaine was likely destined for western European markets.
At the beginning of this year, members of a London drug trafficking gang were jailed for a total of more than 38 years after police intercepted shipments of cocaine and cannabis disguised as exotic fruits such as papaya and yams that had been brought into the UK from Jamaica.
After sentencing of the gang, Detective Constable Catherine Pearson from Scotland Yard’s Organised Crime Command said: “This police operation successfully dismantled a sophisticated crime network that was regularly importing drugs into the UK disguised as food.”