Supermarket workers at stores in the Czech Republic were shocked to find a record haul of cocaine hidden among crates of bananas from Central America.
Police said in total staff found 840kg of cocaine wrapped in green packages stuffed in banana crates sent to supermarkets in the towns of Jicin and Rychnov nad Kneznou in the north of the country.
The seizure, valued by police at £68 million but worth £25 million wholesale, is thought to be the Czech Republic’s largest ever cocaine bust.
But it is far from being the first time cocaine has been found in banana crates sent to supermarkets by mistake. The Czech Republic find is at least the fifth time this has happened in just 18 months.
In January last year grocery store workers in the city of Kelowna in British Columbia, Canada found 21kg of cocaine secreted among crates of bananas shipped from Colombia.
Then in June last year workers at several Carrefour supermarket stores in Warsaw, Poland found 160kg of cocaine wrapped in green and brown packages in deliveries of bananas. In July 18kg of cocaine was discovered in a banana delivery sent to a supermarket in the Croatian port of Ploče.
In December staff at two Maxima stores in Riga in Latvia alerted the police after finding 170kg of cocaine wrapped in green packages in boxes of bananas from South America.
Anna Sergi, a professor of organised crime at the University of Essex who specialises in the cocaine trade, told VICE World News that cocaine smuggling often relies on the “rip on/rip off” method. This is where corrupt port workers load drugs into a legitimate shipment of – for example bananas which are like cocaine a common product exported from central and south America – at the port of departure and offload them at the port of entry. Usually, no-one is the wiser.
“It’s not the first time this has happened. It looks like something has gone wrong with the pick-up of the shipment,” she said. “Someone has messed up their side of the job and not taken the cocaine out at the point of entry.”