Youth Was The Giveaway For Drug Mules On Cruise Ships
A group of alleged drug mules carried cocaine on Costa Cruises voyages between the Mediterranean and Brazil, until crew members tipped off police that there was something unusual about certain passengers – their youth.
When young French-speaking couples appeared among elderly passengers on the transatlantic voyages, crew grew suspicious.
Their tip-offs led to a police raid on Costa Fascinosa in mid-voyage off the Canary Islands and the arrest of 31 people, most of whom are now on trial in Marseilles.
The eight women and 23 men, in their twenties, were recruited in Nice to carry cheap Moroccan cannabis resin to Rio de Janeiro and other ports. There it was exchanged for cocaine that they took back to Europe at a total profit of tens of millions of pounds.
Chief judge Patrick Ardid said at the opening of the trial: “This is new, a first. We are judging an international trade among three continents and the use of cruise ships.” The leaders were “audacious innovators who had the ability to create new routes for cocaine,” he said.
The ring was rounded up in March 2014 thanks to observant crew, the judge said. “They wondered what these young people were doing going on cruises with old people when they were not there to accompany their grandmothers.”
After seizing 25kg of Brazilian cocaine in the cabins of Costa Fascinosa, destined for Venice and Dubrovnik, prosecutors found a well-organized operation, The Times reported.
In two years, cruise ships were used 13 times, with up to a dozen mules on each vessel.