Cocaine with a street value of around €2.5 million was concealed in crisp packets, on a ship from the Caribbean bound for Europe.
Six men and six women aged between 20 and 52 have been arrested in a scam to smuggle cocaine hidden in packets of crisps and snacks on a cruise ship.
Cocaine with a street value of around €2.5 million, together with cash and phones, was seized in the wake of the arrival of MSC Opera in Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira from the Caribbean, TTG reports.
The swoop was a joint operation by the UK’s National Crime Agency and Portuguese police, and those arrested included British and Dutch nationals.
Around 18kg of cocaine was recovered, stashed in ceramic bowls and crisp packets, the agency said.
Half of those arrested had just arrived on Madeira and were due to travel onwards from Funchal to various locations in Europe. Another four were passengers on the cruise. All 12 have been detained to appear in court in Portugal.
“We believe this operation will have seriously disrupted an organised crime group looking to traffick cocaine into the UK and Europe,” Allan Round of the National Crime Agency’s Joint Border Intelligence Unit, said.
“Working with our Portuguese colleagues, we have been able to act on intelligence at speed and prevent this quantity of drugs from reaching its final destination.
“We know cocaine generates huge profits for criminal networks who are also involved in street violence and exploitation, so stopping it will help reduce the harm caused by them.”
A spokesperson for MSC commented: “MSC Cruises confirms it has closely cooperated with the relevant local authorities for the successful completion of a drug trafficking operation regarding the smuggling by passengers of illegal substances on board MSC Opera.”