A South African Police Service (SAPS) operation seized narcotics valued at USD5.8 million in Port Elizabeth over the weekend, according to a police spokesman.
The drugs were hidden on a vessel from Ecuador, South America, in containers that the bill of lading stated contained bananas bound for Cape Town.
“The suspected containers were on board a vessel that had docked at the Ngqura port [in Port Elizabeth]. The team, which included Customs Investigations, the K9 unit, and SAPS Border Police, was duly activated and the process initiated to trace and secure two containers,” the spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Katlego Mogale, said.
The inter-agency teams had the targeted containers removed to the container depot. A hidden compartment was found in the rear refrigeration unit of the containers during a physical search of the fruit cartons.
“Upon removing some of the panelling, the team discovered packages wrapped in brown tape. The panelling was removed and a total of 40 packages, which tested positive for cocaine, were recovered from both containers.
“Further profiling was conducted and [the team] discovered that there were [a] further two containers that were linked to the product type and packaging methodology on the same vessel,” said Mogale. “The team immediately decided to secure the containers.”
At around 01:00 am local time on Sunday, a sniffer dog reacted positively to the same rear refrigeration panelling as on the previous two containers. The panelling was again removed and another 45 bricks wrapped in brown packaging tape were found. These also tested positive for cocaine. A total of 85 bricks with an approximate weight of 85 kg were recovered in the search.
“High levels of collaboration between stakeholders at the port have once again paid off,” said Mogale. “There have been breakthroughs made as a result of the ongoing proactive fight against crime, especially the proliferation of drugs coming into and through the port. Investigations are continuing.”