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German police bust cocaine smuggling network from South America

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By Euronews  with AP, DPA
The drugs were hidden in ships' steal girders, according to German police.
The drugs were hidden in ships' steal girders, according to German police.   -   Copyright  Bundeskriminalamt via Twitter

German police have uncovered a cocaine smuggling ring transporting tons of drugs to Europe from South America.

Investigators said they had arrested 14 suspects on Tuesday as part of the international operation.

The gang is accused of bringing nearly five metric tons of cocaine to Germany in nine shipments from Brazil, Colombia, and several other countries.

The drugs were often hidden in steel girders in ship deliveries and encased in lead to pass through X-ray security, according to the Berlin public prosecutor's office.

The investigation was triggered in November 2018 after authorities seized a shipping container in Santos, Brazil, containing 690 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated €140 million.

The shipment was addressed to a company in Berlin, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office said in a statement.

Investigators then launched a probe into a smuggling network that dated back to 2011 and had transported drugs through Colombia, Panama, and Mexico.

The suspects are also accused of using fake companies to fraudulently apply for aid from coronavirus relief programmes and launder money.

Those suspected of involvement include a former officer with East Germany’s Stasi secret police and an insurance company’s office in Berlin.

Most of the 28 suspects - aged between 22 and 62 - are German, but authorities are also seeking citizens from Georgia, Greece, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Iraq, and Colombia.

More than 250 task forces were involved in searches of more than 40 properties in Germany on Tuesday.

Ten suspects were arrested in Berlin alone, with another detained in Dortmund, two in Latvia, and one in Spain.

"With the arrest warrants and searches today, we have broken the supply chain," Chief Prosecutor Georg Bauer said.