Police Intercept 1,417 Kilos of Coke Hidden In Giant Squid Fillets

By Keri Blakinger 03/28/17

The $91 million shipment of cocaine was branded with the name of soccer player Lionel Messi.

Confiscated cocaine shipment.
Confiscated cocaine shipment. Photo via YouTube

Peruvian police scored a goal against narco-trafficking last week when they intercepted $91 million of cocaine branded with the name of soccer player Lionel Messi—and stashed inside giant squid fillets. 

More than 1,400 kilograms of high-purity cocaine—about 1.5 tons—were set to be shipped by sea to the Belgium, according to La Republica. The bizarre branding was an apparent effort to protect the quality of the product and make sure that no intermediaries tampered with it along the way.

The fishy find was seized in Lima, coming from the Ene and Mantaro Rivers Valley and bound for the port of Callao. While some of the 1,282 squid fillets—also known as pota—bore the image of the Argentinian athlete, others featured the word “King” with the Spanish crown and two dragons. Authorities said neither Messi nor the Spanish monarchy had any involvement in the illicit shipment.

“As the hours go by, the investigation will advance and not only will we identify the members of this network, but in also capture the recipients,” Peruvian authorities said, according to La Republica. “There is no doubt that this is an international organization.” Officials said it was likely the Sinaloa cartel was behind the squid shipment. More details are expected to be released in the coming week.

“The imagination of those who engage in this business never rests,” said General Vicente Romero Fernandez with the Peruvian National Police. Fighting narco-trafficking is a “relentless struggle,” he added. 

This is the second major drug bust in Peru this year—and the last one was almost as strange. In early January, Peruvian authorities uncovered more than two tons of blow stashed in asparagus packages headed for Amsterdam, according to Reuters

A Serbian man and four Peruvians were collared in the earlier bust, and two SUVs, $75,000 and a gun were seized. 

Although Colombia is often viewed as the world’s cocaine capital, Peru is nearly tied with its northern neighbor in production of the drug. Since the 2015 passage of a law allowing the military to shoot down drug smugglers in aircraft, traffickers have switched transport techniques and relied more heavily on Peruvian ports to ship their illicit wares. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.