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Italian police find 'record' cocaine haul floating near Sicilian coast

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The Local/AFP ([email protected])
Italian police find 'record' cocaine haul floating near Sicilian coast
Police in Catania, Sicily. Packages of cocaine worth some €400m were discovered off the coast of the island in one of the largest-ever Italian drug hauls. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Cocaine worth €400m was found floating off the coast of Sicily in packages likely left by a cargo ship for traffickers to bring ashore, Italian police said on Monday.

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In "one of the largest" drug hauls ever made in Italy, police intercepted 70 packages, which contained around two tonnes (2,000 kilograms) of cocaine, off Sicily's eastern coast.

The packages were spotted floating in the sea by a navy surveillance plane, Italy's Guardia di Finanza (tax and financial police) in Sicily said in a statement.

The haul was estimated to have a street value of over 400 million euros, which police called a "record" seizure.

The drugs were stored in about 70 waterproof packages, carefully sealed, held together by fishing nets and equipped with a luminous signalling device.

Police published a video on social media showing officers recovering the haul at sea.

The "peculiar packaging methods and the presence of a tracking device" meant the packages were "probably left at sea by one of the cargo ships frequenting that stretch of coastline, to be subsequently recovered and transported to the mainland," police said.

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Although Sicily is home to the Cosa Nostra mafia immortalised in the Godfather films, the country's leading organised crime group is the wealthy and powerful 'Ndrangheta.

The 'Ndrangheta is based in the Calabria region across the Strait of Messina from Sicily, and is heavily involved in drug trafficking, controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe.

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