Serious questions about the integrity of the fresh produce supply chain into Europe have once again been raised following the discovery of two similar-sized hauls of cocaine hidden in shipments of imported bananas.
Police in Berlin confirmed yesterday that they had been alerted to the discovery of around 140kg of the drug in cartons of bananas shipped from Colombia and reportedly delivered to "at least seven" Aldi supermarkets in the German capital, Berlin.
The seizure, reportedly worth more than US$8m, follows a similar case in Oslo, Norway on 10 December, which saw customs officials confiscate approximately 145kg of cocaine – this time said to have originated in Ecuador and also worth an estimated US$8m – after the country's largest independent fruit and vegetable distributor Bama unwittingly brought it into the country hidden away among cartons of bananas and transferred it to one of its warehouses.
While the seizure of drugs smuggled in banana shipments is by no means unusual (see table below), the location of the German haul in particular – a handful of supermarkets belonging to discount chain Aldi Nord – has raised eyebrows among those in the business.
One Hamburg-based source, who preferred not to be named, said: "These things can happen from time to time, but usually they're picked up before they reach their final destination."
The size of both the Berlin and Oslo hauls is also worth noting: the former is understood to be the second-largest in Germany in the past 26 years, while the latter was said to be one of of the largest ever intercepted in Norway.
"It's enormous," Bjorn Rose, director of Norway's Customs and Excise authority, told Norway's Dagbladet newspaper. "This single seizure is as big as everything customs has seized in the last three years put together."
Drug seizures in banana shipments to Europe
|Jun 2013||Aarhus, Denmark||200kg||Colombia|
|Oct 2013||Portsmouth, UK||850kg||Colombia|
|Nov 2013||Genoa, Italy||283kg||Dominican Republic|
|Dec 2013||Oslo, Norway||145kg||Ecuador|
|Jan 2014||Berlin, Germany||140kg||Colombia|
Sources: AGI, UPI