Hide and seek: how drug dealers can be creative at sea

Drug dealers play creative hide-and-seek games with coast guards and other maritime security personnel. The Mexican naval captain Ruben Navarrete, based in the western state of Michoacán, told TV News last November that those who specialize in maritime activities can only be limited by one thing: their own imagination. . The recent series of seizures proved his point, because traffickers are becoming more and more creative, and they have hidden places above and below the deck. “InSight Crime” explores some of the most popular and creative ways to hide on ships over the years, and how this way continues to evolve.
In some cases, the drugs are stored in the same compartment as the anchor, and few people can enter. In 2019, media reports shared how nearly 15 kilograms of cocaine were hidden in the Caldera of Puerto Rico in the Dominican Republic and hidden in the ship’s anchor cabin.
Otherwise, once the ship reaches the point of arrival, anchors have been used to facilitate drug delivery. In 2017, Spanish authorities announced that more than one ton of cocaine had been seized on the high seas from a Venezuelan flag ship. The U.S. Department of the Interior detailed how law enforcement officers observed about 40 suspicious packages on the ship, which were connected by ropes and fixed to two anchors.
According to reports, this is done to enable the crew to throw illegal cargo into the sea in the shortest possible time to avoid detection. The authorities observed how two of the crew members managed to achieve this goal before they met with the other four on board.
The use of anchors in drug trafficking is based on pragmatism and usually attracts smugglers who plan to smuggle maritime transport.
One of the most common ways that traffickers try to smuggle drugs overseas is by concealing illegal substances in supplies that are usually located in the main cargo hold or hull of a ship. Cocaine is usually transported to the Atlantic using “gancho ciego” or “tearing tear” technology, which means smugglers often try to hide the drugs in containers that have been inspected by customs officials.
As InSight Crime reported last year, in this regard, the transportation of scrap metal has caused great problems for the authorities, because when the scanner is hidden in a large amount of waste, the scanner cannot remove a small amount of medicine. Similarly, the authorities found it more difficult to deploy sniffer dogs to detect drugs in this situation, because the animals may be injured while performing their tasks.
Otherwise, illegal substances are usually smuggled into food. Last October, the Spanish National Guard announced that it had seized more than 1 ton of cocaine on the high seas. According to reports, the authorities found the drug between corn bags on a ship from Brazil to the Spanish province of Cadiz.
By the end of 2019, Italian authorities had found nearly 1.3 tons of cocaine in a refrigerated container containing bananas, which had arrived from South America. Earlier in the previous year, a record-breaking drug was seized in the port of Livorno in the country, and half a ton of the drug was found hidden in a container that appeared to be coffee from Honduras.
In view of the widespread use of this technology, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has cooperated with the World Customs Organization (Customs Organization) to implement a global container control program to combat this effort.
Previously, drugs were seized from the captain’s personal belongings. Such attempts are rarely exposed and require serious corruption in the name of the captain or crew to work effectively.
According to media reports, last year, Uruguayan naval forces seized five kilograms of cocaine in the front cabin of a Chinese flag ship, which arrived in Montevideo from Brazil. Subrayado revealed how the captain himself condemned the discovery of this illegal burden.
On the other hand, Ultima Hora quoted the Attorney General’s Office as reporting that in 2018, the Paraguayan authorities detained the captain of the ship after being accused of smuggling drugs in his personal belongings. According to reports, officials have seized 150 kilograms of cocaine in the port of Asuncion in the country, and the drugs are about to be shipped to Europe under the name of a “famous trafficker” allegedly working in a Paraguayan criminal organization.
Another potential hiding place for traffickers seeking to export illegal goods is close to the funnel of a given ship. This is very rare, but it is known to happen.
El Tiempo’s files indicate that more than two decades ago, in 1996, the authorities discovered that cocaine was hidden in ships belonging to the Peruvian Armed Forces. After a series of related seizures, nearly 30 kilograms of cocaine were found in a cabin near the funnel of a navy ship anchored three miles from the port of Lima in Callao. A few days later, another 25 kilograms of drugs were reportedly found in the cabin of the same ship.
Considering the reported seizures, the hiding place was rarely used. This may be due to smugglers’ difficulty in getting close to the ship’s funnel without being discovered, and the difficulty of hiding a specific group of illegal substances here.
Due to smuggling activities below the smuggling deck, traffickers have been hiding drugs in vents along the hull.
In 2019, InSight Crime reported that a Colombian-led trafficking network had sent cocaine from the ports of Pisco and Chimbote, Peru, to Europe, mainly by hiring divers to weld sealed drug packets into the vents of the hull. According to reports, each ship smuggled 600 kilograms without the crew’s knowledge.
EFE reported that in September of that year, Spanish authorities seized more than 50 kilograms of cocaine hidden in the submerged part of a merchant ship after arriving in Gran Canaria from Brazil. According to media reports, officials detailed how some illegal loads were found in the steerable vents below the deck.
A few months later, in December 2019, the Ecuadorian police revealed how divers found more than 300 kilograms of cocaine hidden in the vents of ships at sea. According to the authorities, cocaine was smuggled into Mexico and the Dominican Republic before being seized.
When drugs are hidden under the deck, even if divers are usually needed for convenience, the vents on the ship may be one of the most commonly used hiding places for traffickers.
Criminals have been staying under the deck, using the water inlet to hide drugs and facilitate trafficking. Although this hideout is less common than traditional favorites, a complex network has worked with divers to store bags of such illegal substances in such valves.
In August last year, the media reported how the Chilean authorities detained 15 suspected criminals (including Chilean, Peruvian and Venezuelan nationals) for transporting drugs from Peru to Antofagasta in the northern part of the country and its capital west. , San Diego. According to reports, the organization has been hiding drugs in the inlet of a Peruvian flag merchant ship.
According to reports, the ship’s water inlet has been used, so when the ship passes through the northern port city of Megillons in Chile, a diver who forms part of the illegal network can extract a concealed drug package. Local media reports indicated that the diver had arrived at the vessel on a boat equipped with an electric motor, and the electric motor made very little noise to avoid detection. According to reports, when the organization was dismantled, the authorities seized drugs worth 1.7 billion pesos (more than 2.3 million US dollars), including 20 kilograms of cocaine, more than 180 kilograms of marijuana, and small amounts of ketamine, psychedelics and ecstasy.
This method is more complicated than simply hiding the drugs in a container in the hull, because it usually requires a reliable person on the other end to dive and collect secret packages, while avoiding maritime authorities.
An increasingly popular method used by traffickers is to hide the drugs under the deck, in the ship or in the watertight hull attached to the ship. Criminal groups often hire divers to facilitate such operations.
In 2019, InSight Crime shared how hulls are increasingly being used to promote drug trafficking, especially smugglers using ships disembarking from Ecuador and Peru for trafficking. The criminal group has mastered how to transport drugs onto the hull of the ship, making illegal substances almost impossible to detect using standard inspection procedures.
However, officials have been fighting this cunning attempt. In 2018, the Chilean Navy detailed how the authorities detained members of a gang who smuggled drugs in the hull of a ship from Colombia to the country. After docking in Colombia, after a ship that had disembarked from Taiwan arrived in the Chilean port of San Antonio, the authorities seized more than 350 kilograms of “creepy” marijuana. At the port, when maritime police tried to deliver seven packets of drugs from the hull to a fishing boat driven by two Chilean nationals, they intercepted three Colombian divers.
In November last year, “TV News” interviewed a naval diver in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacán, Mexico. He claimed that this method puts the authorities at risk and that trained divers are in some cases Look for illegal substances in water full of crocodiles.
Although we may be more accustomed to seeing drugs hidden in car fuel tanks, smugglers on ships copied this strategy.
In April last year, the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported how the coast guard of the island nation intercepted a ship carrying about $160 million worth of cocaine. Sources reported in the media revealed that officials found 400 kilograms of drugs in the ship’s fuel tank, adding that they had to conduct a “destructive search” to reach the cocaine because the hidden concealment was hermetically sealed in an airtight container. In the waterproof material.
According to Diario Libre, on a smaller scale, as early as 2015, the authorities of the Dominican Republic seized nearly 80 packets of cocaine on ships heading to Puerto Rico. The drugs were found scattered in six buckets in the fuel tank compartment of the ship.
This method is far from the most common method used by sea smugglers, and its complexity varies from situation to situation. However, with the ability to contain everything from buckets full of medicine to illegal packages wrapped in impermeable materials, the fuel tanks on ships should not be discounted as concealed places.
The so-called “torpedo method” is very popular among smugglers. Criminal groups have been filling temporary pipes (also known as “torpedos”) with drugs and using ropes to tie such containers to the bottom of the hull, so if the authorities get too close, they can cut off illegal cargo on the high seas.
In 2018, Colombian police found 40 kilograms of cocaine in a sealed torpedo attached to a ship destined for the Netherlands. The police reported in detail the press release of the seizure, explaining how divers used the vessel’s drainage system to hook such containers before the 20-day transatlantic voyage.
Two years ago, InSight Crime reported how this method was widely adopted by Colombian traffickers.
In 2015, the country’s authorities arrested 14 suspects for smuggling drugs in gangs that contained drugs in steel cylinders on the ship’s hull. According to El Gerardo, in order to facilitate the organization’s operations, illegal divers (one of whom is reported to be in contact with the Navy) bolted the container to the ship’s stabilizing fin. The media outlet added that the gas cylinders were made by a metal processing expert who also covered them with fiberglass.
However, the torpedo was not only tied to a ship sailing from Colombia. As early as 2011, InSight Crime reported how the Peruvian police found more than 100 kilograms of cocaine in a temporary torpedo attached to the bottom of a ship in the port of Lima.
The method of torpedoes is complex and usually requires the intervention of professionals, from trained divers to metal workers who produce containers. However, this technology has become more and more popular among traffickers, who hope to minimize the risk of getting involved in illegal goods on the high seas.
Drugs are often hidden in rooms limited to specific crews. In this case, those with internal knowledge are often involved.
In 2014, Ecuadorian police seized more than 20 kilograms of cocaine on a ship arriving in the port of Manta in the country from Singapore. According to relevant departments, the drugs were found in the engine room of the ship and were divided into two packages: a suitcase and a jute cover.
According to El Gerardo, three years later, the authorities reportedly found nearly 90 kilograms of cocaine in the cabin of a ship docked in Palermo, Colombia. According to media reports, this load will eventually flow to Brazil. But before the ship disembarked, the tip guided the authorities to find drugs in one of the most restricted places on the ship.
About twenty years ago, more than 26 kilograms of cocaine and heroin were found in the cabin of a Colombian Navy training ship. At the time, the media reported that these drugs may be linked to the self-defense organization in Cúcuta.
Although this confined room has been used to hide small amounts of drugs, it is far from a popular smuggling place, especially in the absence of some form of insider.
As we all know, in a particularly creative move, traffickers hide drugs under sea vehicles.
On December 8th last year, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) shared how police divers in the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, found nearly 40 kilograms of cocaine in two marine nets under a marine propeller, worth about $1 million.
Roberto Vaquero, assistant director of field operations for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands border security, said smugglers have been using “very creative methods to hide their illegal drugs in the international supply chain.”
Although the least-reported smuggler’s method of transferring illicit cargo is done using the ship’s propeller, this is perhaps one of the most innovative.
The sail storage room on the ship is out of scope for most people, but traffickers have found a way to take advantage of it.
In the past, naval training ships used restricted space to become a mobile transit hub for drugs. During the transatlantic voyage, oversize storage rooms have been used to hide illegal cargo.
El País reported that in August 2014, a training ship of the Spanish Navy returned home after a six-month voyage. The authorities seized 127 kg of cocaine from the storage room where the folding sails were stored. According to the media, few people can enter this space.
During the voyage, the ship had stopped in Cartagena, Colombia, and then stopped in New York. El País said three of its crew members were accused of selling drugs to traffickers in the US state.
This situation is rare and usually depends on the direct involvement of corrupt officials or the armed forces themselves.
Traffickers have been using mosquito nets attached to ships to their advantage, mainly by bringing drugs on board.
In June 2019, media reports showed how traffickers smuggled more than 16.5 tons of cocaine onto cargo ships after the billion-dollar drug depression in Philadelphia, the United States. According to reports, the ship’s second partner told investigators that he saw nets near the ship’s crane, which contained bags containing cocaine bags, and admitted that he and four other people had lifted the bags on the ship and had them After being loaded into a container, he was arrested. The captain is guaranteed to pay a salary of 50,000 U.S. dollars.
This strategy has been used to promote the popular “gancho ciego” or “rip-on, rip-off” technology.
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Post time: Mar-02-2021