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Italian police net record 5-tonne cocaine haul off Sicilian coast

The consignment has an estimated value of US$946 million and five people have been arrested, reports say.

Reuters
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Packages containing cocaine seized during a police operation, lie on a dock in the harbour of Porto Empedocle, Italy July 21. Photo: Reuters
Packages containing cocaine seized during a police operation, lie on a dock in the harbour of Porto Empedocle, Italy July 21. Photo: Reuters

Italian authorities have seized a record 5.3 tonne cocaine haul being transferred between ships off the southern coast of Sicily, police said on Friday.

The consignment had an estimated value of US$946 million (about RM4.3 billion) and five people have been arrested, the Guardia di Finanza said in a statement.

Police had been tracking a ship that sailed from South America and swooped in the early hours of Wednesday, when a surveillance aircraft spotted packages being thrown from its deck into the waters of the Strait of Sicily to be collected by a waiting fishing trawler.

They stopped the trawler and found large quantities of drugs in a hidden compartment behind some panelling on the vessel. Two Tunisians, an Italian, an Albanian and a French national were arrested.

Sicilian regional president Renato Schifani praised the operation as a blow against drug smuggling.

"Drugs are a scourge of our society fuelled by unscrupulous men who sow death by crushing hopes and destroying many families," he said in a statement.

In April, Italian police had found almost 2 tonnes of cocaine floating at sea off eastern Sicily which they believe had been left by a cargo ship for collection.

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