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Italian sniffer dog uncovers three tonnes of cocaine in banana shipment

Joel, who Calabrian police say has a "fine nose for cocaine", found the $900 million load on a cargo ship from Ecuador

  • WORDS: MEGAN TOWNSEND | PHOTO: GUARDIA DI FINANZA
  • 20 May 2023
Italian sniffer dog uncovers three tonnes of cocaine in banana shipment

An Italian sniffer dog has uncovered a three-tonnes of cocaine, hidden within a banana shipment from Ecuador.

The sniffer dog, named Joel, discovered the 2,734 kilo shipment - valued at around $900 million - at the port of Gioia Tauro, on Italy's "toe" on Tuesday (May 16).

Police enlisted Joel's "fine nose for cocaine" after customs officials became suspicious of two refrigerated containers on board a cargo ship, the port is thought to be close to where the world's biggest drug traffickers, the ‘Ndrangheta crime organisation, operate.

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The Guardia di Finanza told Italian state radio that their suspicions increased further following a background check on the organisation that had shipped the bananas — revealing that it didn't ordinarily export such a large amount of the fruit.

Police used scanning devices on the 40ft containers before bringing in Joel, whom can be seen eagerly jumping onto crates on bananas in a video published by Guardia di Finanza.

The huge shipment of cocaine inside, described as “the purest quality and in perfect condition,” had originally been destined for Armenia, and could have fetched upwards of $900 million, according to police.

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They added that, just days prior to the seizure, 600 kilos of cocaine was found among exotic fruit sent from Ecuador at the same port — with those crates destined for Croatia and Greece.

A whopping 37 tonnes of cocaine has been seized at Gioia Tauro since January, but police say they remain vigilant due to the methods of traffickers "constantly evolving."

Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter

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