LISBON (Reuters) - Police seized over a tonne of cocaine worth some $49 million and arrested seven people aboard a Brazilian fishing boat in a drug bust on the high seas off Portugal backed up by international crime agencies, officials said on Tuesday.
Portuguese police discovered 50 cloth sacks full of cocaine, apparently destined for the continental European market, inside a specially designed, hard-to-access compartment of the fishing vessel, a police statement said. The suspects arrested were all foreign nationals aged between 36 and 64, it added.
Codenamed “White Sand”, the anti-drug operation began following an exchange of information between Portuguese and Brazilian authorities, and was assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Britain’s National Crime Agency.
In December, a study by Lisbon-based EU drugs agency EMCDDA revealed that new gangs were muscling into cocaine markets in Europe, setting up smuggling networks directly linking producers in Latin America to European consumers.
Global cocaine production reached a record high of around 1,410 tonnes in 2016, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Axel Bugge and Mark Heinrich