MAOC-N supports Italian seizure of over 5.3 tonnes of cocaine

MAOC-N has supported a major operation to combat drug trafficking by sea, carried out by the Italian Guardia di Finanza and with the support of the Dutch, French, UK, US, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish authorities. This extraordinary operation has resulted in the arrest of five individuals – an Italian, two Tunisians, a Frenchman, and an Albanian – and the seizure of a vessel carrying a staggering 5.3 tonnes of cocaine onboard.

The pivotal moment in the operation occurred in the evening of 19/07/2023, when an aircraft deployed by the Italian authorities detected a fishing vessel approaching a bulk carrier flying the flag of Palau named PLUTUS. Acting also on the intelligence shared through the Centre, a well-organized police team was set up, supported by additional air and naval assets from the Italian authorities.

The operation unfolded during the night when PLUTUS was spotted stationed just beyond Italian territorial waters. It appeared to be awaiting the arrival of the fishing vessel, presumably for an illicit transhipment. Notably, the fishing vessel had deactivated its AIS localization system, likely to carry out the cargo recovery unnoticed.

Responding swiftly to the unfolding events, authorities managed to apprehend the fishing vessel during its attempt to return to territorial waters. During the search, law enforcement officers discovered a hidden compartment concealing over 5.3 tonnes of cocaine, probably destined for the European market.

The fishing vessel was then taken to the port of Porto Empedocle, while the mother ship, PLUTUS, is currently being escorted by Italian naval vessels towards the port of Palermo.

The successful interception of this substantial cocaine shipment represents a significant blow to international drug trafficking and underscores the importance of international collaboration in combating it.