Authorities in Peru have made one of the country’s largest cocaine seizures in recent years in a major port city, illustrating the country's growing role as a supplier for the European market and the importance of maritime trafficking routes.
On October 9, Peruvian police raided the headquarters of the company Corporacion e Industria Valant in the northwestern city of Paita -- one of Peru's largest international ports -- where they found over four tons of cocaine and arrested 16 people with diverse international ties, reported La Republica.
The cocaine consisted of 351 kilos in solid blocks and another 3,721 kilos in liquid form, frozen and hidden in a shipping container, and authorities believe it was destined for Lithuania.
Officials called the company, an Argentine-owned agricultural export business, the "customs" agency of northern Peru for drug shipments, and said it provided transport services to organizations moving drugs to Europe, the United States and Asia. The owner, Luis Tato Enrique, was arrested along with 15 others, including four Colombians, another Argentine, an Israeli and a Mexican citizen with reported ties to the Sinaloa cartel, according to La Republica.
The seizure is the biggest this year, and one of the largest since 2006, when the US Coast Guard intercepted a Peruvian ship that had left Paita carrying 4.5 tons of cocaine, reported the Associated Press.
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With Peru now believed to be the world's largest cocaine supplier, ports like Paita have become important transit points connecting it to foreign consumer markets via maritime routes.
The Peruvian government has taken steps to stem the flow of drugs leaving Peru by other routes with measures to improve monitoring of trafficking routes passing overland and through airports. However, as shown in Paita, where basic measures such as scanners and canine anti-drug units were conspicuously absent, if it wishes to truly reduce the amount of cocaine leaving the country it will also need to focus its efforts on security in the country's ports.
The arrests of Mexican, Israeli, Colombian and Argentine citizens in connection with the case also highlights how Peru's growing importance to the cocaine trade has attracted international drug traffickers. The growing presence of foreign criminals has been noted at all levels of the drug trafficking chain, from level of low level "mules" through to transnational organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel.