Italian authorities on July 21 seized a record 5.3 tonne cocaine haul being transferred between ships off the southern coast of Sicily. The ship was destined for Turkey "after unloading its cargo," the authorities said.
The consignment had an estimated value of 850 million euros ($946 million) and five people have been arrested, according to Italian police.
While the police statement did not specify the ship's ports of departure and arrival, Colonel Gianluca Angelini told BBC Turkish that the ship's final destination appeared to be Turkey.
Colonel Angelini stated that the ship named 'Plutus' sailed from South America, probably from Venezuela or Trinidad. There were Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Ukrainian nationals among the 15 crew members of the ship.
In recent years, the Turkish authorities' arrest of prominent figures involved in drug trafficking and the substantial surge in drug seizures within the country have brought to light Turkey's pivotal role as a significant hub in the global drug trade.
The United Nations (UN) International Narcotics Control Board's (INCB) 2022 report reveals that Turkey has become a transit point for many drugs to reach markets in the Middle East and Europe.
The fact that the amount of cocaine seized in Turkey in 2022 reached a record high of 2.8 tons, an increase of 42 percent compared to the previous year, supports the statement of the Turkish Anti-Narcotic Crimes Directorate that a new route from South America to Turkey was established in 2021.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) Global Report on Cocaine shows that the amount of cocaine seized in Turkey increased sevenfold between 2014 and 2021, but the seriousness of the situation becomes even more apparent when the drugs seized before they can be sent to Turkey are taken into account.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of cocaine seized in countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Brazil while being sent to Turkey.