Cocaine stash concealed as crockery

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The Independent US

To the untrained eye, the 42-piece blue "crockery" set adorned with bright sunflowers would not have looked out of place on any Mediterranean table – yet police were not fooled. The dinner service was not porcelain or earthenware. In fact, it was sculpted from 20 kilograms of cocaine.

The haul, including bowls, cups and plates, was seized as it was delivered to a 35-year-old man in Barcelona, who was promptly arrested. The parcel was sent from the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo and had passed through London on its way to the Catalan capital.

Police suspect a Venezuelan drugs gang was behind the unusual smuggling attempt, and they recruited a crockery "customer" who would then hand over the expensive dishes.

Spain is a major gateway for cocaine smuggled into Europe, and Barcelona has been the location for several daring attempts by traffickers. Earlier this month, a Chilean man was detained by police at the airport when they found out the "cast" around his supposedly broken leg was in fact constructed from cocaine. Other less creative smuggling ruses were uncovered yesterday in Germany, when a supermarket worker found 28 kilograms of cocaine, worth an estimated €1.4m (£1.3m), in a box of bananas.

The stash was hidden in small yellow bags beneath a layer of the fruit in a crate at the shop in Illertissen, near Ulm in the south of the country.

Ludwig Waldinger, a spokesman for the Bavarian Office of Criminal Investigation, told the Associated Press that police were unsure whether the smugglers had hoped to intercept the package or whether the drugs were simply misplaced.