Buenos Aires' main international airport remains a hotspot for cocaine smuggling to Europe, as discovered when a criminal organization in Italy was dismantled after hiding hundreds of kilograms of cocaine aboard flights from Argentina to Paris.
Two dozen people were arrested in an October 1 operation in the Sicilian capital of Palermo, the final destination for the cocaine flown from Argentina, according to Clarín.
The investigation, which began in 2015, found that the men hid the cocaine in their luggage before boarding flights from Buenos Aires to Paris. Once in the French capital, they transported the drugs by train and by car to Palermo.
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According to investigators, the organization transported over 3.1 tons of cocaine between the two countries in a single operation. In addition, the group smuggled hashish from Morocco.
The organization also attempted to purchase a shipment of cocaine worth nearly $23,000, though the transaction was never completed, according to Clarín.
“In Argentina, a kilo of high quality cocaine costs around 1,500 Euros (nearly $2,000). That kilo can then be made into five, which in Palermo is worth no less than 35,000 Euros (nearly $39,000) each,” Rodolfo Ruperti, Chief of Police in Palermo, said in a press conference reported by La Nación.
“A quarter of a gram (of cocaine) can be sold for between 50 and 100 Euros (approximately between $55 and $110) which can lead to earnings of between 200,000 and 400,000 Euros (approximately between $220,000 and $440,000),” Ruperti added.
InSight Crime Analysis
With easy connections to Europe and corruptible customs officials, Argentina's Ezeiza International Airport has long been known as a drug transshipment point, although authorities may finally be making life a bit more difficult for traffickers.
A day before the operation in Italy, on September 30, authorities seized 250 kilograms of cocaine at the airport. The drug, which was being transported in large suitcases and small backpacks, was bound for Spain’s capital, Madrid.
The operation was the result of a long investigation that led to the arrest of 13 people on drug trafficking charges and three members of the country’s airport security force, believed to have colluded with the drug traffickers.
Argentina’s Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, called it the “largest airport drug seizure in the country’s history."
Argentina’s recent currency devaluation could also be making it an even more attractive playing field for international crime organizations as they can purchase drugs at relatively lower prices and sell them for a healthy profit abroad.
The criminal opportunities provided by this dynamic to drug traffickers small and large will, without a doubt, present new challenges to authorities in Argentina as they continue to try to stop drugs both from coming into the country and leaving it.