Latest trick: Drug ring fuses cocaine with rice
Take a second look at the 920 bags of rice. They were marked as donations for a United Nations food programme in Africa.
But it turns out the food was actually part of a drug ring's scheme to smuggle cocaine out of Rosario, a port city in Argentina.
The grains had been fused with liquid cocaine and packed into 50kg rice sacks, an official said on Wednesday (Sept 234).
The shipment contained about 30kg of cocaine, bound for Africa and would have been eventually smuggled to Europe.
Argentina's Director General of Customs Guillermo Michel said:
"Most likely, this was a test run.
"And if it had gone through, they would have followed through with larger volume."
Seven Colombians, four Argentines and a Guatemalan have been arrested for trafficking and possible money laundering, he said.
Law enforcement officers have never seen cocaine smuggled this way before, he added.
Customs Investigations Director Guillermo Gonzalez said the rice had been soaked in water mixed with cocaine.
When the water evaporated, the rice was left invisibly "impregnated" with the addictive stimulant.
Said Mr Gonzalez: "This is the first time we’ve seen technology this sophisticated."
The traffickers had probably planned to grind the grains into fine powder, he said, and sell it as cocaine once the rice reached its destination.
The scheme was uncovered on Sept 17 when drug-sniffing dogs detected cocaine in a cargo of rice sacks at a warehouse in Rosario.
It was kept secret for a week while security agents hunted for more suspects.
"The investigation indicates we have to keep looking. We know that these are international criminal organizations," Mr Gonzalez said.
Sources: Reuters, AFP