From fruit to felony: The secret world of banana smuggling and the shocking ways criminals are using them to transport cocaine

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Over the weekend, a large quantity of cocaine was found in banana packages at a company in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the case was reported to the police by the owner of the company whose employees discovered the drugs. However, this is not the first time that drugs have been smuggled in bananas.

This concerns cross-border crime being investigated by The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA), and the case is under the jurisdiction of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Similar operational activities were carried out by members of the SIPA and the Indirect Taxation Administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina (UIO BiH), as well as the Intelligence-Security Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (OSA) in January 2023.

But why is Cocaine is often smuggled in bananas?

As part of the “Kruna” operation, as many as 52 kilograms of cocaine hidden among banana boxes were found in Sarajevo at that time. This is not the first time that a large quantity of cocaine has been found in a banana shipment. In fact, some of the biggest cocaine seizures in recent years have involved drugs hidden in this tropical fruit.

Bananas have an advantage in customs clearance. Also Cocaine is often smuggled in bananas because the fruit provides a natural cover for the illegal drug, making it difficult to detect during customs inspections. Bananas are a common commodity that is traded globally, and their packaging and shipment are usually not subject to the same level of scrutiny as other goods. Additionally, bananas are often transported in refrigerated containers, which can help conceal the odor of the drug. Criminal organizations take advantage of these factors to smuggle cocaine in banana shipments.

Attempts to smuggle drugs in banana packages are not only a problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but police in the region and other countries around the world are also facing this issue.

For example, police in southern Italy announced in mid-May that they had seized 2,700 kilograms of high-purity cocaine hidden in two refrigerated containers of bananas shipped from Ecuador. Similar operations have been carried out by officials in European countries, as well as in Turkey, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro.

A few years ago, in a police operation codenamed “Last Snow,” the Albanian police seized 613 kilograms of cocaine worth as much as 180 million euros. The drugs were found in a container of bananas that had just arrived from Colombia. Last year, the Dubrovnik-Neretva Police Department received a report from a supermarket chain in Ploče that drugs were being smuggled in banana packages. When police arrived on the scene, they found 16 packages containing a total of 18.2 kilograms of cocaine. Similar incidents have been reported in Montenegro. It is important to note that Montenegro is one of the key points through which drugs from South American countries enter the Balkan Peninsula and pass through it, primarily due to the port of Bar.

The latest case of drug seizure in banana packages in Montenegro was in January 2023. Around 500 kilograms of cocaine were seized in the warehouse of the “Voli” trading company, which arrived in banana packages from a port in Ecuador. At that time, a freight forwarder from Bar was arrested on suspicion of being a member of an international criminal organization.

Cocaine is often hidden in fruit containers for one reason – this type of cargo does not stay long in transit and has priority when it comes to customs clearance. One reason for this is that it speeds up transportation – customs officials tend to clear anything that is perishable quickly.