Worldwide, cocaine is usually mainly transported by sea.

The main European entry points are Spain and the major Northern European ports like Antwerp, Rotterdam, Vlissingen, Bremerhaven, Hamburg and Helsingborg.

The cocaine arrives hidden in ”cover” cargoes via containers stowed in large commercial ships mainly with containers of bananas.

by sea, skirting the north-western African coasts, to enter the Mediterranean (through the Strait of Gibraltar) or continuing across the Atlantic Ocean in the direction of the large European ports already mentioned.

But the most conspicuous quantities coming from Latin America, once they have crossed the Panama Canal, head towards England and then Holland/Rotterdam and Vlissingen for the first changes, continuing on to Germany/Hamburg and Sweden/Helsingborg.

A new route has recently been detected which, passing through the Mediterranean basin, heads towards the ports of the Balkan area and/or South-Eastern Europe to then retrace the Balkan route traditionally used for heroin trafficking.

”coca road” from Ecuador to Europe leads to criminal organizations A turnover of 40 billion euros

LAMEZIA TERME Drug (mostly cocaine) placed inside containers carrying perishable goods, directed to the main European ports such as Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg. It is the ”gancho blind” technique which allows tons of drugs to be sent from South America in shipments which, in police jargon, are called ”contaminated”.

Huge drug shipments organized by the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta which, precisely in South America, boasts direct contacts with coca producers. Only a few days ago, on 10 February, a shipment of 3.2 tons of cocaine was seized, identified by anti-drug police dogs, on one of the ships destined for Europe, departing from the port of Guayaquil in Ecuador.

The city in the province of Guayas overlooking the Pacific Ocean is one of the crucial hubs for drug trafficking from South America.

THE PEARL OF THE PACIFIC Between 2019 and April 2023, over 62 tons of cocaine were identified and seized in Ecuadorian seaports.

Forty of these tons left the main port of the Pearl of the Pacific.

The largest seizure of coca in Ecuador dates back to 2019, identified in a load of 3,200 bags of grain salt. The field test determined that 474 bags had been mixed with cocaine, each weighing approximately 25 kilos, for a total of 11.85 tons of pure cocaine destined for Europe.

CONTAINERS Container transport is precisely the one preferred by the ’Ndrangheta to bring coca from South America to Europe. According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, in fact, 70% of the traffic is given by containers that ”legally” leave ports such as those in Ecuador and others in Latin America which, on paper, carry perishable products such as fruit, flowers and fish to have a rapid exit of the goods in the ports of arrival through even 20 or 30 open routes at the same time.

THE PARALLEL 10 The sea (and the ocean) is the main element for the intercontinental drug trafficking for the ’Ndrangheta. The ”drug highway” which is located at the height of ”parallel 10” north of the equator. “Considering that South America is the cocaine zero zone – says Mexican journalist Ana Lilia Pérez in her book Mares de cocaína – if it were traveled eastward as a straight highway, this route would pass through 25 countries from Costa Rica to the Marshal Islands. It covers three oceans, numerous seas and bays and is a favorite of drug traffickers because this sea route offers a wide range of possibilities to travel anywhere in the world, from waters with little vigilance and minimal chances of detention.

VADALA’ Another proof of the strong interests of the ’Ndrangheta in Ecuador was the research ”The Cowboys of Cocaine”. The investigation followed Antonino Vadalà, a member of the ’Ndrangheta. Vadalà himself, arrested in March 2018, and located by investigators during a meeting in a shopping center in Venice (together with another boss), the port where Vadalà himself had planned to import shipments of cocaine from Ecuador and Peru with two advantages. The Venetian one, in fact, was a less supervised airport than Calabria, it was not dominated by any clan and it was the operational base of Francesco Giraldi, the local importer with whom Vadalà wanted to associate.

THE COCA BUSINESS The ’Ndrangheta business linked to drug trafficking stems from a well-structured organization, using the same schemes all over the world. It has brokers and brokers in major ports, generating profits estimated at $30-40 billion a year. Money that is reinvested in activities such as restaurants, real estate purchases, gambling, the exchange of cryptocurrencies and import and export companies, to continue to feed the leaders of the ’Ndrangheta.

Last but not least, last April 25/27 the great seizure of more than 2.5 tons of cocaine hidden in a container of bananas coming from Guayaquil, transhipped to Rotterdam Vlissingen and Hamburg, bound for Helsingborg, but in Hamburg the agents intercepted and container seized.

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