January 9, 2019 / 5:32 PM / 5 months ago

Suriname authorities seize record amount of cocaine at port

PARAMARIBO (Reuters) - Authorities in Suriname have made their largest ever seizure of cocaine, found hidden in containers filled with rice waiting to be exported from a port in capital Paramaribo, the small South American country’s top law enforcement official said on Wednesday.

Local media reported that at least 2,300 kilograms (5,070 pounds) of cocaine had been found. In an interview with local radio station ABC, Prosecutor General Roy Baidjnath Panday declined to confirm the exact amount, but said it was likely “well above a thousand to at least two thousand” kilograms.

“As far as the prosecutor’s office remembers, the largest seizure ever had a weight of around 1,600 to just over 1,600 kilograms (3,527 lbs) of cocaine. So this is more than that,” Baidjnath Panday said.

Local media also reported that a rice exporter in Suriname’s western Nickerie district and a worker at a private company that helps companies deal with customs were arrested in connection with the case.

Suriname, a former Dutch colony with a population of less than 600,000, has long struggled with drug trafficking. Current President Desi Bouterse was convicted in absentia by a court in the Netherlands of drug trafficking in 1999. He denies the charges.

In 2013, his son Dino was arrested in Panama on U.S. charges of importing more than five kgs (11 lbs) of cocaine into the United States. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison after admitting to drug trafficking and firearms charges, as well as trying to offer a home base to Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah.

Baidjnath Panday declined to say whether the record seizure was made with foreign cooperation.

Reporting by Ank Kuipers; Writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Bill Berkrot

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