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CORRECTED: Spain seizes 5.6 tonnes of cocaine

Spanish authorities said Wednesday they had seized 5.6 tonnes of cocaine worth over 340 million euros in the port of Valencia, the nation’s biggest haul of the drug in four years.

Police found the drugs during a search of a suspicious shipping container that arrived in the Mediterranean port, one of Europe’s busiest, from South America, the interior ministry said in a statement.

A photo shared by the ministry showed a pile of plastic-wrapped bricks of what it said was cocaine with the word “rey” (“king”), written in bold letters on them.

The authorities began the investigation that led to the seizure in 2021 after becoming suspicious that criminal gangs were “taking advantage” of the legal importation of fruit and vegetables to bring drugs to Spain “from the other side of the Atlantic”.

A Guardia Civil police spokesman in Valencia said the investigation was continuing and there had so far been no arrests.

The authorities did not say when the operation took place or from which country the container ship had arrived.

The announcement of the drug seizure comes two days after Europol said law enforcement authorities in six different countries including Spain had taken down a “super cartel” of drugs traffickers controlling about one third of the cocaine trade in Europe.

Spain’s Guardia Civil said a total of 13 people had been arrested in the country as part of that joint operation.

The cartel would bring cocaine from Panama to Spain via the Mediterranean ports of Algeciras, Barcelona and Valencia and would launder the money it earned by buying real estate on Spain’s southern coast.

Spain’s proximity to North Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with former colonies in Latin America, the world’s main cocaine-producing region, have made it a gateway into Europe for drugs.