Remember that scene in Traffic where they moulded cocaine into dolls? This kind of trickery happens in real life, too. A band of international smugglers recently got caught with over $US370 million worth of cocaine disguised as 40 shipping pallets. No, the pallets weren't filled with cocaine. The pallets were cocaine. A total of 11 people were arrested last week after over 1497kg were seized at the Port of Valencia in Spain. The shipment had come from Colombia and contained sacks of charcoal. Not only were some of the sacks filled with cocaine disguised as charcoal; the shipping pallets themselves were made out of compressed coke. As forensic scientist Richard Hooker explained to The Telegraph, you can mould cocaine into just about anything with the right chemistry and ingenuity.
"To make the cocaine look like wooden pallets they have dissolved the white cocaine powder with a solvent or glue," Hooker said. "It has then been placed into moulds shaped like pallets to set. When the resin dries out it then solidifies. If you mix it with a dye it then gives the wood effect and gives the appearance of dark wood."
"Once the dealers get it they can then re-dissolve it and reverse the process to extract the cocaine," the scientist added. "The same process can also be used to make it look like pieces of charcoal by using charcoal powder."
This is hardly the largest cocaine bust ever. Just a few months ago, the US Coast Guard seized over 5443kg of cocaine being transported via submarine a couple hundred miles south of Mexico. That seems small compared to the 1989 bust in Los Angeles that led to the seizure of 21.4 tonnes of cocaine. The pressure-moulded approach shows that drug lords will go to increasingly absurd lengths to avoid run-ins with the narcos.
It makes you wonder: What kinds of elaborate schemes have smugglers pulled off without getting caught?
Images via Spanish National Police