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Cocaine worth more than R2 billion was seized in 2021 but kilos of drug still evading the law as seizures did not tell the whole story

Twenty-seven canvas bags with Tik Tok and Jaguar brands were found with bricks of cocaine in Durban. Picture: SAPS

Twenty-seven canvas bags with Tik Tok and Jaguar brands were found with bricks of cocaine in Durban. Picture: SAPS

Published Dec 30, 2021

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DURBAN - MORE than R2 billion worth of cocaine was intercepted by various law enforcement agencies since the start of the year.

However, this does not include some of the “smaller” cocaine seizures, which run into the millions.

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From the 973 blocks of compressed cocaine with an estimated value of R583 million found in compartments of a fishing vessel off the Saldanha coast to an estimated R20m worth of cocaine that washed up at Jeffreys Bay main beach, the seizures left South Africans with many questions.

Various tactical forces descending on the vessel where 973 blocks of compressed cocaine (estimated at R583 million) were found. Picture: SAPS

Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Richard Chelin said he believed that it was quite common knowledge that the seizures did not tell the whole story or provide an accurate picture of the number of drugs that were actually on the market.

“Seizures often comprise a small fraction of what is actually on the market and in comparison to the number of drugs that evade law enforcement. It is important to acknowledge the challenges faced by law enforcement in dealing with cocaine trafficking such as adequate resources, funding limitations and inter-agency collaboration.”

Twenty-seven canvas bags with Tik Tok and Jaguar brands were found with bricks of cocaine in Durban. Picture: SAPS

The Durban Harbour was a transporting route for several cocaine seizures that were recorded during the year. Chelin said there were various security measures in place to detect illicit drugs at ports.

He said some measures that could be instituted at ports would include better detection techniques since traffickers were always changing their concealment tactics.

“This would require law enforcement to always be aware of new concealment methods used by traffickers globally.”

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Chelin said that another aspect would be better collaboration and co-ordination among the law enforcement agencies, customs, coastguards and immigration, among others.

“This would entail timely sharing of information and collaboration. Another aspect would be to invest in new technology that can enable timely detection of illicit drugs.

“Corruption is another challenge which needs to be dealt with and often plays a key role in the trafficking of illicit drugs,” Chelin said.

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A cocaine consignment weighing 46kg and worth an estimated R20 million washed up at Jeffreys Bay Main Beach in the Western Cape. Picture: SAPS

On the cocaine that washed up at Jeffreys Bay earlier this month, Chelin said there always existed the possibility that the consignment could have fallen off a ship or a small boat.

“The packaging and the way the drugs were concealed may indicate otherwise as well. It could have been planned that way.

“The plastic wrapping and the empty container could indicate that the consignment was placed strategically in the water awaiting someone to pick it up but somehow found its way to the shore,” Chelin said.

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Three police officers were arrested in Johannesburg for robbing a cargo truck of cocaine with a street value estimated at R200 million. Photo: SAPS

Some of the newsworthy 2021 cocaine seizures:

  • In February, in the Eastern Cape, 30 bricks of cocaine to the estimated value of R14.1m were seized in a container meant to be used as storage for frozen deboned beef, which was in transit through Port Ngqura, from being shipped between Brazil and China. This was after a lead about drug trafficking between Santos, Brazil and China.
  • In March, 973 blocks of compressed cocaine (estimated at R583m) were found in three compartments of a fishing vessel off the Saldanha coast. Ten suspects, four of Bulgarian descent and six from Myanmar, were subsequently arrested on charges of dealing in drugs.
  • In June, the Hawks seized R400m worth of pure cocaine weighing 800kg, concealed in a 3.6m ski boat on the N1 in Pretoria. The cocaine was reportedly destined for local and international markets through a drug syndicate.
  • Also in June, 27 canvas bags with Tik Tok and Jaguar brands were found with bricks of cocaine in Durban. The 541kg stash with an estimated value of more than R243m was confiscated.
  • In July, police found a black Nissan bakkie parked with 23 big bags containing cocaine with the estimated street value of R200m in Johannesburg. Police seized 552 bricks of cocaine. It is reported that a cargo truck travelling from Durban Harbour was followed by the suspects’ vehicles from the N3, near Leondale, to its destination, a warehouse in Aeroton.
  • In August, a total of 999 bricks of cocaine weighing 1 000kg with a street value of R500m were seized at the Durban Harbour following a search of a container.
  • In November, 600kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of R240m was discovered between the boards of an MSC vessel at the Durban Harbour.
  • In December, a cocaine consignment weighing 46kg worth an estimated R20m washed up at Jeffreys Bay main beach in the Eastern Cape.

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