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Someone in SA hid about R75 million worth of cocaine in oranges, and shipped it to the UK

Cocaine shipped from South Africa, hidden under oranges, has been seized by police in the UK.

  • The drugs could have sold for around R75 million in that country.

  • South Africa is a trans-shipment hub in the drug trade, with recent seizures of drugs packaged in SA in the US, Israel, and Australia.

Police in the United Kingdom say they found 49kgs of cocaine concealed in a shipment of oranges from South Africa.

At the UK's average estimated street value, the cocaine would have been worth some R75 million.

An image released by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, an umbrella organisation that combines the efforts of several English counties, shows the drugs packed in high-end watch boxes tightly wrapped in clear plastic, and covered by a thin layer of oranges, some with mouldy patches.

The police group did not provide details on the South African end of the shipment, such as the originating port or the sending company. It said only the cocaine had arrived in the United Kingdom via the Port of Felixstowe, not far from Ipswich. Nearly half of Britain's container shipments pass through Felixstowe, and the port has its own dedicated police unit.

The cocaine from South Africa was found after four men were arrested during a swoop in London, police said, as they executed a total of seven warrants. Those raids were triggered by the discovery, in April, of a 189kg shipment of cocaine delivered to a British farm, which had been dispatched from Colombia.

Three of the four suspects arrested have since been released from custody.

Large quantities of drugs from South Africa have turned up in India, in Nepal, and in the United States, and a conviction in Israel revealed the details of an organised pipeline set up to smuggle cocaine into that country aboard El Al flights.

In 2019, Australian police found 384kgs of cocaine welded into a second-hand excavator that had been shipped from South Africa.

SA is an ideal trans-shipment point, experts say, thanks to a combination of extensive police corruption and good transport infrastructure, with high volumes of outbound shipments to both Europe and the across the Indian Ocean.

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