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More cocaine seized in Durban as Brazil cops confiscate consignment hidden en route to SA

More cocaine seized in Durban as Brazil cops confiscate consignment hidden en route to SA
Illustrative image: From Top Left: South African police are investigating who imported 228 bricks of cocaine worth R80m into Durban. (Photo: SAPS) | Bottom Left: Two-hundred-and-twenty-eight bricks of cocaine, worth R80m, were seized in Durban about two days after 200 bricks were intercepted at the harbour there. (Photo: SAPS) | Money note and cocaine (Photo: iStock) | Bottom Right: (Photo: Brazil's Federal Revenue Service)

Cocaine worth about R150-million was intercepted in Durban over three days last week. The drug consignments were from Brazil where authorities also seized a load of cocaine hidden in a container of frozen chicken that was set to be shipped to South Africa.

A consignment of cocaine from Brazil, worth about R80-million and disguised to look like packages of meat, was discovered in a container at a trade port in King Shaka International Airport.

This interception happened on Friday, 20 October 2023, and Daily Maverick can reveal that on the same day authorities in Brazil discovered 16kg of cocaine, destined for South Africa and hidden with frozen chicken, at a seaport there.

Friday’s crackdown at the airport in South Africa also unfolded two days after — and was linked to — R70-million of cocaine that was seized on Wednesday on a vessel in Durban harbour that travelled from Brazil.

No arrests were made in connection with those cocaine interceptions; however, investigations are continuing.

The three cocaine interceptions over three days — two in South Africa and one in Brazil — yet again highlight how entrenched trafficking between the two countries is.

Daily Maverick has reported extensively on this.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Blood ties: South Africa caught in a web of murderous, drug-smuggling Brazilian gangs

In the most recent interceptions in South Africa, police officers monitored a vessel for about a month.

Brazil to Durban harbour

It travelled from Brazil and officers boarded it last Wednesday, 18 October 2023, in Durban harbourDaily Maverick has before reported that global drug traffickers seem to prefer operating via this hub.

In that interception, 200 blocks of cocaine, concealed in 20-litre paint containers, were discovered.

The consignment was worth about R70-million.

Read more in Daily Maverick: R70m cocaine seized in Durban harbour months after ‘cartel diver’ boarding SA flight arrested in Brazil

South African Police Service spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said that the investigations into that interception resulted in a second cocaine discovery — R80-million was seized at a warehouse at a trade port in King Shaka International Airport on Friday 20 October 2023.

Cocaine concealed in meat boxes

“Members had been tracking various containers which arrived into the country via the Durban harbour from Brazil,” Mathe said.

“On Friday afternoon, members tracked a certain container to the Dube Trade Port in which 228 blocks of cocaine were seized. 

“The cocaine was found concealed in meat boxes and disguised as such.”

Mathe said police were investigating where the cocaine would have ended up had it not been intercepted.

‘Surrender or be sniffed out’

National police commissioner Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola also warned traffickers “to either surrender or we will continue to sniff them out”.

“The SAPS is hard at work in disrupting and dismantling transnational organised crime that poses a significant threat to the communities that we serve,” he said. 

“We continue to intensify and strengthen the detection of drug trafficking and associated organised crime.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, 20 October 2023, the same day the R80-million worth of cocaine was discovered, authorities in Brazil also intercepted cocaine there.

According to a statement, Brazil’s Federal Revenue Service said 16kg cocaine was intercepted at the Port of Paranagua.

‘Tracer’ discovered

“The drug was [concealed] in the refrigerated engine of a container loaded with frozen chicken that was destined for South Africa,” the statement said.

Daily Maverick has before reported on a similar cocaine interception at the Paranagua port that was destined for South Africa.

In February this year, the first cocaine crackdown there was carried out — a container meant to be shipped to Durban was found with “cocaine hidden in the container’s refrigerated engine, which was loaded with 27 tons of chicken gizzards”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Busted — Cocaine haul found in Brazilian port points straight towards dodgy Durban

During Friday’s interception at the Port of Paranagua, Brazilian authorities said the cocaine was set to be trafficked to South Africa without the exporter of the frozen chicken knowing.

A “tracer” was also found in the cocaine.

Traffickers would have used the device, connected to a cellphone, at the port of intended destination to determine which container the cocaine was hidden in so that they could retrieve it.

Frozen chicken

Daily Maverick has before detailed how cocaine in Brazil, destined for South Africa, has been hidden between frozen chicken.

A few months ago, in July, it reported that narcotraffickers were trying to push cocaine shipped from different ports in Brazil to South Africa, sometimes via Spain, hidden in consignments of frozen poultry.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Coke smugglers playing chicken with South Africa’s port authorities

This was like Friday’s interception there.

In most trafficking instances, the “rip on/rip off” smuggling method was used. 

This involved drugs being secretly loaded inside cargo at a departure port and then retrieved at the destination port without the knowledge of the ship authorities or those importing or exporting the cargo.

Corrupt workers at the two ports tampered with the original cargo seals and replaced them to disguise what they had done.


Meanwhile, in August 2021 Daily Maverick reported on Anom, which basically involved criminals across the world using encrypted communication devices sold via the black market — and which, unknown to them, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) was bugging.

This led to arrests linked to cocaine trafficking in various countries, including South Africa.

It had been anticipated that, despite the Anom platform being shut down in June 2020, details gleaned from those devices would result in several subsequent arrests and cocaine interceptions.

About a year ago, at the start of November 2022, eight suspects with alleged links to cocaine trafficking between Brazil and South Africa were arrested in this country in a case that appeared to have ties to the Anom saga. DM


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