The 215kg cocaine cargo was seized from a container at the Gioia Tauro port in Calabria, police said in a statement. Described as “the purest cocaine”, the drugs were hidden in bags among bananas from Ecuador.
Police said they were able to track the shipment down by following a paper trail and using scanning equipment at the port.
This is not the first time traffickers have used the tropical fruit to smuggle their drug cargo into Italy.
In November police in the north-east Genoa port found €60 million worth of cocaine in a banana shipment from the Dominican Republic.
But drug lords also make use of alternative foodstuffs, and in February attempted to hide cocaine worth €13 million in sacks of Brazilian sugar bound for Gioia Tauro.
Italy is a key entry point into the European drugs market from Latin America, with the Calabrian port being particularly vulnerable due to its location in the heartland of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia.
According to the EU’s police force, Europol, the ‘Ndrangheta “has a dominant position on the European cocaine market due to excellent relations with the producers”. The mafia has “immense profits”, in part contributed to drug smuggling, and a global network including associates in Colombia.