Peruvian authorities said Monday they seized 2.3 tons of cocaine disguised as ceramic tiles destined for Turkey via a growing maritime route for illicit drugs, Reuters reported.
The drug bust happened Friday at a warehouse at Peru’s biggest port, El Callao, just outside the capital Lima, police said.
“This is the first incident that we know of (in which the cargo was in) Peruvian ports and its final destination was Turkey. Usually, we are aware of ports in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and France,” said El Callao’s police chief, Colonel Luis Angel Bolanos.
At a press conference Monday, police displayed the cocaine, which had been fixed to rubber sheets to appear as hundreds of ceramic tiles packed in wooden boxes inside a shipping container.
Bolanos said the seized cocaine was valued at “at least $20 million.”
According to a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Turkey’s role as a transit country for cocaine has been growing as the amount of the drug seized in the country has increased sevenfold since 2014.
According to the report, titled “Global Report on Cocaine 2023,” the cultivation of coca bush saw an increase of 35 percent globally between 2021 and 2022, while the amount of the drug seized in Turkey increased to a record 2.8 tons in 2021.
The report said some of the cocaine reaching Turkey arrives after transiting through West Africa and some comes directly from Latin America, with the outbound cocaine flowing westwards from Turkey through the Black Sea and the Balkans, a route traditionally associated with the trafficking of opiates and the smuggling of cigarettes.