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Yachting cocaine route Bulgaria-Greece busted

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Sofia, Bulgaria (Ports Europe) May 14, 2024 – Over 10 tonnes of cocaine were transported per year by yachts between Bulgaria’s Black Sea marinas in Sozopol, Sveti Vlas and Nesebar to Greek ports in Aegean and Mediterranean seas, a Bulgarian media outlet reported. There was no matching information from additional local sources, but the news has been corroborated by articles in the country’s leading media outlets.

The scheme is believed to have been operational for more than 10 years. Bulgarian security sources are quoted as saying that each yacht trip was transporting between 150 and 300 kg of cocaine. The drugs arrived in Bulgarian Black Sea ports of Varna and Burgas in containers.

Most likely the cocaine route was disrupted in March, when Bulgaria’s customs officers seized more than 170 kg of cocaine in Burgas – the largest ever amount of cocaine found at the port. The drug was in 150 packages in the double wall of a reefer container of bananas from Ecuador. It is speculated by the media that the drugs were bound for Greece via yachts.

Largest ever cocaine seizure in Bulgaria’s Burgas port

The alleged 63-year-old mastermind behind the cocaine smuggling was declared internationally wanted by Bulgarian authorities in April. The head of the country’s Customs Agency, Petya Bankova, was then arrested amid speculation that she was involved in the scheme.

A Bulgarian trading company imported the bananas shipment. The container arrived with the ship “Madison 2”. It travelled on the route Ecuador – Panama – Malta – Gioia Tauro – Burgas. The ship continued on its way, and the container remained in Burgas. Local media estimates the value of the confiscated cocaine at around $7 million.

Local media sources claim that the cocaine seizure was made after a tip by U.S. officials, which was impossible to ignore. Bulgarian state security agency head was quoted as saying that the criminal group behind the “yachts VIP cocaine route” had infiltrated the Ministry of Interior and the customs authorities.

Ports are the main gateways for cocaine into Europe. In the ports of Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, customs officers often discover cocaine hidden in banana shipments.

In 2019 in the industrial zone near the Burgas port, 76 kg of cocaine, again in a shipment of bananas from Ecuador.

More Ports Europe news about illegal drugs

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