Police in Cape Verde seized nearly 10 tonnes of cocaine from a Russian vessel transiting through the port, the judicial police said in a statement, the largest single drug seizure in the country’s history.
The drugs were busted after the ship, which was travelling to Morocco from South America, docked in Cape Verde’s Port of Praia for legal reasons following the death of a crew member.
The judicial police said it was alerted by the Maritime Analysis and Operation Center – a platform coordinating the anti-drug trafficking actions of seven E.U. states – who suspected the ship of transporting illicit substances.
They seized 9.5 tonnes of cocaine and arrested 11 Russian nationals.
The use of hard substances like cocaine, heroin and amphetamines is rising in West Africa, where countries that once served primarily as transit points for trade between South America and Europe are now active consumer markets.
Despite strict drug laws, the quantity of cocaine seized in Africa doubled in 2016, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), making it the second-highest growth in cocaine seizures after Asia.
Cape Verde, a tiny Atlantic archipelago of 500 000 people, is the West African nation that has shown the most determination in tackling gangs trafficking Latin American cocaine to Europe via the region.
Authorities intercepted 1.5 tonnes of pure cocaine destined to the European market in 2011, and seized 280 kilograms of the drug from a Brazil-registered fishing vessel in 2016 as it prepared to transfer its load to a U.S.-flagged yacht.
Street prices for cocaine in Europe recorded by the UNODC ranged anywhere between $54 and $117 per gram in 2016, meaning the value of trafficking flows often exceeds Cape Verde’s gross domestic product.
Global cocaine production reached 1 125 tonnes in 2015, said the UNODC, of which a record of 864 tonnes were seized that year.