Bosnian Police Seize Cocaine Concealed in Bananas

Published: 08 June 2023

Bananas BoxPackages of bananas are often used to conceal drugs. (Photo: Scot Nelson, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Bosnia and Herzegovina's law enforcement authorities have seized 124 kilograms of cocaine that was concealed in packages of bananas mistakenly delivered to a trade company that had neither ordered the cocaine, nor the bananas.

The owner of the trade firm, which specializes in the import and sale of fruits and vegetables, alerted the authorities after finding a white powdered substance instead of bananas in the boxes that came from South America.

The company from Široki Brijeg, a town in southern Herzegovina, clarified that it did not purchase any bananas and that the consignment had been wrongly sent to their location.

Locals later told the Dnevni avaz daily that a pile of discarded bananas was discovered near Lipno village, approximately ten kilometers south of Široki Brijeg. The investigation will determine whether these bananas are linked to the confiscated drugs and whether someone in Herzegovina had repackaged them by replacing the fruit with cocaine.

The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) estimated the street value of the shipment to 10 - 15 million euros (US$10.68 - $16.02 million).

The Prosecutor's Office said that the case is being treated as international narcotics smuggling, and efforts to identify the individuals involved are underway.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) highlighted the increasing role of criminal networks in the Western Balkans within regional and European Union drug markets.

The strategic geographic location of countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, coupled with high demand for narcotics in the European Union and Turkey, has fueled the activities of criminal groups along the Balkan route.

Earlier this year, SIPA seized 52 kilograms of cocaine in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Last August, over 73 kilograms of cocaine, hidden in packages of imported sugar, were confiscated in the northern town of Doboj. The seized drug was reportedly part of a larger cocaine shipment from Colombia destined for Belgium and the Netherlands.

In April 2021, Croatian authorities at the port of Ploče discovered 600 kilograms of cocaine in a banana shipment addressed to a company in Tuzla, a city in northeast Bosnia and Herzegovina. Media reports indicated that the crate containing cocaine-laced bananas was addressed to a non-existent company in Tuzla, while the actual destination was Široki Brijeg.