The Malta Independent 3 August 2021, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Customs seizures - Congratulations are in order

Monday, 14 June 2021, 09:54 Last update: about 3 months ago

Last week, the Customs Department broke a record.

Customs Officials, stationed at the Freeport Scanning facility, intercepted and seized a record breaking 740 kg of cocaine hidden in a 40ft reefer container with the street value estimated between €90 million and €100 million. The cargo was en-route from Ecuador to Slovenia with a refrigerated payload of 1,080 boxes of bananas.


The container in this latest bust was selected by the Customs Container Monitoring Unit for checking “following a meticulous risk assessment on containers transiting through the Freeport.”

This seizure is historical both in its size and in its street value, Customs said.

It is the second year in a row that such a large amount of cocaine was discovered. In 2020, Customs found 612kg of cocaine hidden within pallets that were carrying cooking oil at the Freeport, in cargo that left Ecuador and transited through Colombia before being intercepted by Customs in Malta en-route to Libya. The value of the cocaine was €70 million.

Indeed, Customs officials have been very busy over the past few years. Between 2016 and 2020, the department registered, year on year, record breaking drug seizures (tons of cocaine and cannabis resin).

It has also intercepted €2.4 million in undeclared cash; detained 176 million ‘Tramadol Pills’, hydrochloride tablets used by Jihadists and by militias in war zones with an estimated value €1.2 billion, and much more. In April this year, they had intercepted a container containing over 900 AK47 dummy replicas.

Seeing Customs making such large interceptions shows that they are doing their jobs well, and congratulations to all the officials is in order.

At the same time, it is worrying that two such large amounts of cocaine were caught passing through Malta in just as many years.

Malta is strategically situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, thus meaning that it is a bit of a shipping hub. It is no surprise that smugglers would try and ship drugs on cargo ships which need to pass through Malta to reach their destination.

These two major drug interceptions raise questions, however, as to just how much drugs are passing through Malta?

It is indeed a worrying situation and perhaps more the Customs Department should be given more resources, in terms of human resources, equipment and finances, to search even more containers than they are able to now.

The drug trade is an international issue, and thus any such busts would undoubtedly help in international policing in general.

The only way to beat the drug problem is to work together with agencies from abroad to identify, seize and trace the origin and destination of the drugs.

If Malta is a transit point, then we must be ever vigilant and continue with the good work which the Customs officers have thus far done.

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