Italian Police Seize Record-Breaking €850 Million Cocaine Haul near Sicily
Italian police have confiscated a record-breaking haul of 5.3 tonnes of cocaine near the southern coast of Sicily. The estimated value of the seized drugs was €850 million, as reported by Wanted in Rome.
This drug seizure represents the largest in Italy's history.
Law enforcement authorities had been tracking a vessel that began its journey from South America and executed a raid on the morning of July 19th, when a special aircraft spotted packages being thrown overboard from the ship into the waters of the Sicilian Channel. A fishing trawler was later seen collecting these packages. Police intercepted the trawler and discovered a substantial quantity of drugs concealed in a compartment behind some panels on the vessel.
The boat was captured, and five individuals were arrested, including two Tunisians, an Italian, an Albanian, and a French citizen.
Sicily's Regional President, Renato Schifani, hailed the operation as a significant blow against drug smuggling. He remarked, "Drugs are a scourge on our society, perpetuated by unscrupulous individuals who sow death, shattering hopes, and destroying many families."
According to Italian police, the estimated value of the cocaine haul amounted to €850 million (approximately $946 million).
While the police statement did not specify the ports of departure and arrival of the ship, Colonel Gianluca Angelini informed BBC Turkish that Turkey was the final destination for the vessel.
Colonel Angelini stated that the ship, named "Plutus," arrived from South America, most likely from Venezuela or Trinidad. Among the 15 crew members were Turkish nationals.
In recent years, Turkish authorities have arrested influential figures involved in drug trafficking, and a significant increase in drug seizures within the country has highlighted Turkey's pivotal role as a major hub in the global drug trade.
According to the 2022 report by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Turkey has become a transit point for many drugs entering the markets of the Middle East and Europe.
The fact that the quantity of cocaine seized in Turkey in 2022 reached a record level of 2.8 tonnes, a 42% increase from the previous year, corroborates the Turkish Anti-Narcotics Directorate's claim that a new route from South America to Turkey was established in 2021.