The interception of 706kg of uncut cocaine was a significant breakthrough in disrupting the global illicit drug trafficking network and would be a major financial loss for the drug enterprise, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Mulaudzi said yesterday.
“In addition to this the South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau and other SA law enforcement agencies have through our intelligence-led policing system been able to intercept massive heroin and other drug shipments that were imported through our land borders, airports and harbours,” Mulaudzi told The Citizen.
According to the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), South Africa is the largest market for illicit drugs in sub-Saharan Africa, and served as a transhipment point for cocaine and heroin primarily destined for Europe.
“South American cocaine enters South Africa primarily via air to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. A portion is distributed for local consumption and the remainder is trafficked internationally, often controlled by Nigerian criminal organizations,” the report stated.
Mulaudzi said information had been received from Interpol about a ship carrying the drugs from Brazil to South Africa.
The consignment of 706 cocaine bricks were found concealed on the bottom floor of the ship below more than 3,669 containers.
It was established the ship would dock at Coega Harbour in Port Elizabeth before heading to Singapore en route to its final destination, India.
“SA is both a destination and transhipment hub for illicit drugs,” Mulaudzi said. “It must be emphasised while we are a conduit there are far larger drug corridors through other parts of Africa and in other regions.”
Mulaudzi explained Brazil was the primary source of cocaine, usually smuggled via drug mules, air freight and maritime shipments.
“Afghanistan and Pakistan are the primary sources of heroin trafficked via the combined maritime/ land based route across the Indian Ocean to East and Southern African littoral states and then via our land borders into SA,” said Mulaudzi.
He noted law enforcement had dismantled several networks importing heroin into SA, with one of the biggest hauls in 2017 being nearly a ton of heroin found in Somerset West before it could be exported in wine boxes, supposed to be exported from Cape Town.
“India and China remain the biggest source of precursor chemicals for various types of illegal drugs and Mandrax. Nigeria has emerged as a major tik (crystal methamphetamine) production centre and also supplies the SA market,” Mulaudzi said.
Given how freely drugs travel around the world, SA fortunately doesn’t stand alone.
“The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) has developed an extensive network and solid operational cooperation with our regional and international law enforcement partners, which has been instrumental in better results through sharing information and joint operations,” Mulaudzi said.
South Africa’s neighbour Mozambique had a vast coastline which was largely unpatrolled by maritime and land forces, the INCSR found.
“Heroin and hashish primarily arrive in the country via maritime shipment from South Asia,” the report stated.
“Access to major international air and cargo hubs in South Africa allow for further distribution.”