Police in Peru intercepted more than a ton of cocaine destined for Spain last week, uncovering the drugs hidden in a shipment of frozen fish, stored in packets emblazoned with photos of drug lords Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Pablo Escobar.
The 1,150 kilos of cocaine were captured about 50 miles north of Lima. Hector Loayza, chief of Peru’s anti-drug police, said the drugs were to leave Peru through the port at Paita, near the northern border with Ecuador. He said the drugs would be worth $45 million once in Spain.
The operation also led to the arrest of 12 people — eight Peruvians and four Colombians. None of those captured had any links to Guzman or Escobar, Loayza said, adding that the images of the drug lords were used to show “the purity” of the drugs being smuggled.
In the photos, Guzman appears in a dark baseball cap while holding a rifle. Escobar appears sitting on a motorcycle. Guzman was captured for a third time in Mexico in January 2016, and a year later he was extradited to the US, where he will face trial starting in September.
Escobar, who built one of the largest drug-trafficking empires in history, was gunned down on a Colombian rooftop in December 1993. Escobar was being hunted by the US and Colombian governments and other groups in Colombia, but the details of his death remain murky.
Packages of cocaine are frequently labeled with images or other symbols, often to convey messages about their contents or destination.
In the past, Peruvian police have captured cocaine packets labeled with photos of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi in his Barcelona uniform, with the coat of arms of Spanish King Philip VI, and with the Star of David. Other packages have been marked with photos of horses, birds, or dolphins.
In September 2016, Spanish police intercepted nearly 2,000 pounds of cocaine hidden in a commercial shipment of bananas, broken up into packets labeled with “FIFA” stickers. Earlier this year, police in Spain made their largest bust of cocaine ever, finding nearly nine metric tons of the drug in packets labeled “iPhone.”
Loayza, the head of the anti-drug police, said 25 metric tons of cocaine have been intercepted so far this year, which he attributed to “the good work” done by agents making use of intelligence. A day before the packages bearing images of Escobar and Guzman were displayed, Peruvian police intercepted 114 kilos of cocaine heading toward Bolivia.
Loayza also said that in recent years, most of Peru’s cocaine has headed for Europe, where it typically fetches a higher price — $40,000 to $70,000 a kilo, compared to $20,000 to $25,000 a kilo in the US, though prices fluctuate based on location and where the drugs are in the supply chain.
Peru is the world’s second-biggest producer of cocaine. Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia produce almost all of the world’s supply of the drug — though Colombia churns out more than the other two countries combined.
By: Christopher Woody, Business Insider