Cocaine’s deadly destinations – the Durban link to the bodies piling up in Brazil’s drug battles

Cocaine’s deadly destinations – the Durban link to the bodies piling up in Brazil’s drug battles

More drugs discovered and 28 people arrested as police link murders in the Brazilian port of Paranaguá to a criminal war for control of the trade, with South Africa one of the destinations.

Two more consignments of cocaine meant for South Africa have been intercepted in the Brazilian port city of Paranaguá amid deadly turf wars among narco traffickers.

Daily Maverick reported in March that a container with cocaine hidden in chicken destined for Durban had been blocked by the authorities.

And police in Paranaguá have established that the city’s murder rate is directly linked to a battle for control of the drug trade.

The Civil Police of the Brazilian state of Paraná, in which Paranaguá is situated, announced on 4 May that 28 arrests had been made.

They said the violence there was linked to a suspect, whom they did not name, who was linked to a criminal organisation.

Arson and murders

“The investigations revealed that the criminal organisation constituted a complex logistical structure to operationalise… international drug trafficking,” they said.

This involved moving drugs around Brazil as well as sending shipments of cocaine to other countries.

Durban has been flagged as a port favoured by global drug traffickers, with several mass cocaine interceptions there.

“The criminal organisation’s direct relationship with the increase in violence in Paranaguá and on the coast, including being responsible for an attack involving two vehicles on fire at the Matinhos police station on 16 April 2020” showed how dangerous it was, the police said.

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According to their statement, the two vehicles had been “involved in a double homicide with a 5.56-calibre rifle, 9mm pistol and 12-gauge shotgun that occurred in Matinhos on 13 April 2020”.

Matinhos is a small town in Paraná.

South Africa ties indirectly into what has been happening there and in Paranaguá.

Frozen chicken and cocaine

The cocaine previously discovered concealed in frozen chicken headed for Durban was found at the harbour in Paranaguá in February.

Durban has been flagged as a port favoured by global drug traffickers, with several mass cocaine interceptions there.

Since the February discovery of the cocaine in the chicken, two similar interceptions have been made in Paranaguá, one of two major ports in Brazil used to smuggle cocaine to Durban.

Cocaine intercepted at Brazil’s Port of Paranagua in April, destined for South Africa. (Photo:Brazilian finance ministry)

The other is the port of Santos. The Hawks have previously indicated to Daily Maverick that they are aware of the channel between Durban and Santos.

The three recent busts linked to South Africa at Paranaguá suggest that drug traffickers may be turning to that port as an alternative to Santos.

In an article in 2022 about the arrest of eight suspects allegedly involved in drug smuggling via Paranaguá, the international Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project explained why criminals found the port attractive.

“Paraná is strategically close to the so-called Tri-Border Area between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina,” the article said.

“This makes Paraná attractive to criminal gangs. They also use the region’s ports to access European and African drug markets and bring in weapons from the US and Europe.”

Drug interceptions at the Port of Paranaguá involving the rip on-rip off method are linked to South Africa.

Daily Maverick previously reported that the Brazilian Gilberto Aparecido dos Santos, also known as Fuminho, had visited South Africa ahead of his 2020 arrest in Mozambique. He was allegedly linked to one of Brazil’s most powerful criminal gangs, the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), or First Capital Command.

Dos Santos’s presence in South Africa suggested that the PCC had extended its tentacles to this country.

Paranaguá and South Africa

According to the Civil Police of Paraná, drug traffickers operating in the state were using refrigerated shipping containers and the rip on-rip off method.

This technique involves corrupt harbour workers tampering with cargo seals to load drugs secretly into containers at a departure port and retrieve them at a destination port without the knowledge of the ship’s crew or the cargo importers and exporters.

Drug interceptions at the Port of Paranaguá involving the rip on-rip off method are linked to South Africa.

According to Brazil’s finance ministry, on 9 May 12kg of cocaine was intercepted at Paranaguá. It was discovered alongside a container of frozen chicken and was meant to be transported to the port of Las Palmas in Spain.

According to the ministry, the cocaine was then to be sent on to Durban. It added that the trafficking method used was rip on-rip off.

Tracking devices

Of the 9 May cocaine bust at Paranaguá, the ministry said the traffickers had placed location devices in the drugs so that they could be easily found in the cargo once it reached its destination.

“Information about the case was passed on to law enforcement authorities, as well as to foreign customs administrations, to boost the fight against international drug trafficking,” it said.

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In another interception on 10 April, Brazil’s Federal Revenue Service discovered 24kg of cocaine at the Paranaguá port.

“The drug packages were hidden in the engine compartments of a refrigerated container that was destined for South Africa, with a stopover in Spain,” it said.

Cocaine intercepted at Brazil’s Port of Paranagua in April was meant to be shipped to Spain and from there to South Africa. (Photo: Brazilian finance ministry)

It was expected that the cocaine would have been removed from the compartments once in Spain and hidden somewhere else before being shipped to South Africa.

‘Ship owners must be vigilant’

Meanwhile, in March, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released its Global Report on Cocaine 2023 – and South Africa featured prominently.

The report said drug traffickers preferred using maritime routes to get drugs into and through South Africa.

The same month, the Baltic and International Maritime Council warned about the dangers posed by drug trafficking by ship. It also flagged Brazil and South Africa, among other countries.

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“Brazil has also emerged as a major load point with ports such as Santos, Natal, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, Vitoria, Sao Sebastião, Itajai, Rio Grande and Paranaguá being hotspots,” the maritime council said.

“Drugs destined for Europe are loaded here and routed via transhipment ports in, for example, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Morocco, Cape Verde, Turkey and Panama.”

It advised that “ship owners need to be even more vigilant to manage the threat posed by drug smugglers and their ever-changing modi operandi”. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of crime/drug kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available now from the Daily Maverick Shop.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Brazil is Portuguese speaking,do they have links here with local Portuguese speaking individuals would be interesting to know?

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Just goes to show that the BRICS cartel is exactly that – a bunch of criminal countries supported by leaders looking for personal glory rather than looking after its people…..

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