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Uruguay finds cocaine in surfboards bound for Europe

MONTEVIDEO (AFP) – Police have broken a drug ring that smuggled cocaine hidden in surfboards bound from South America to Europe, Uruguayan officials said on Tuesday.

The capture of the narcotics came after cooperative efforts by anti-drug police in Uruguay, Spain, Portugal and Italy, the officials said.

So far, three Italian citizens have been arrested, two in Portugal and one in Italy, they said.

“Operation Iris is unprecedented in our country because of the scope and significance of international cooperation,” National Police Director Jose Manuel Azambuya said in a conference in which authorities from the other countries participated via video link.

Sniffer dogs from an anti-drug unit in Uruguay signaled something suspicious in a package with the six surfboards on May 23, police said. Cocaine was found in the boards.

A total of 40.6 kilogrammes of cocaine was found in five of the boards, police said. A sixth was allowed to pass through so authorities in Europe could track who was receiving the narcotics.

Portuguese police arrested the two individuals who went to pick up the package, which had transited through Spain, on June 7. The remaining surfboard held about 9.3 kilogrammes of cocaine, police said.

Handout picture released by Uruguay’s Interior Ministry on June 13, 2023, showing surfboards which were stuffed with cocaine and that were seized during an international anti-drugs operation, taken at the headquarters of the Uruguayan National Police Anti-Drug Brigade in Montevideo on May 25, 2023. PHOTO: AFP