Peruvian police seized a record 6.5 tonnes of cocaine in a quiet coastal town this week, arresting seven Peruvians and two Mexicans suspected of trying to smuggle the load to Europe as coal, President Ollanta Humala said on Thursday.
Authorities have raised their initial estimate of 3 tonnes of cocaine since uncovering the illicit cargo in a warehouse on Tuesday in Huanchaco, near the city of Trujillo in northern Peru.
The cocaine was packed into brick-sized packets and glued inside large chunks of coal, according to images provided by the government.
Police, who made the bust following weeks of investigations, are still examining the load. The total amount of cocaine confiscated might surpass 6.5 tonnes, Humala said.
“This is, without doubt, the most important blow to drug trafficking in the history of the republic,” he added. Peru is the world’s top cocaine and coca producer, according to the United States and United Nations.
The export companies linked to the smuggling operation have been exporting coal to Spain and Belgium since at least 2011, police said.
Counter-narcotics police chief Vicente Romero flew reporters from the capital to see the drugs on Tuesday. He said the raid was made after a six-week joint operation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration that included wiretapping.
The suspects arrested likely belong to an important global drug cartel, said Interior Minister Daniel Urresti, declining to identify which one.