Photo Credit: MSC Opera cruise is seen after her arrival to Havana harbor on December 18, 2015. MSC Opera Cruiser is the largest which has made stopover in Cuba, with a maximum capacity of 2600 passengers. AFP PHOTO/ANA RODRIGUEZ / AFP / ANA Rodriguez (Photo credit should read ANA RODRIGUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Cruise Ship Passengers Arrested For Allegedly Smuggling Cocaine In Chip Bags
Twelve people were arrested on cocaine smuggling charges March 24 after a cruise ship stopped in Madeira, Portugal, according to a tweet from the National Crime Agency. Those arrested are accused of smuggling over two million dollars worth of cocaine.
Two United Kingdom nationals were among those arrested, the tweet said. The twelve suspects range in age from 20 and 52, and were detained after the ship, MSC Opera, arrived into Funchal from the Caribbean. Four of those arrested were passengers on the cruise ship.
Authorities said the cocaine was found in potato chip bags. Police said 18 kilos of cocaine, as well as money and cell phones, were recovered by Portuguese officials.
“We believe this operation has seriously disrupted an organized crime group looking to traffick cocaine into the UK and Europe,” the National Crime Agency tweeted. “Cocaine generates huge profits for criminals involved in street violence and exploitation, so stopping it will help reduce the harm caused by them.”
The arrests were a joint operation between National Crime Agency, a U.K. agency, and the Judicial Police of Portugal.
“MSC Cruises confirms that it has closely cooperated with the relevant local authorities for the successful completion of a drug trafficking operation regarding the smuggling by passengers of illegal substances on board its MSC Opera,” according to a statement from MSC Cruises provided to Business Insider.
The twelve individuals arrested will be prosecuted in Portuguese courts.
“Working with our Portuguese colleagues we have been able to act on intelligence at speed and prevent this quantity of drugs from reaching its final destination,” from Allan Round, from the Joint Border Intelligence Unit.
According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, cocaine was among the top five drugs seized in Portugal in 2018.