French authorities have made "one of their largest cocaine seizures in years" finding 1.393 tons of the drug in plastic bags hidden in the tires of an 8x8 Dakar support truck belonging to the Spanish Epsilon Team.
As OppositeLock author BORSUQ brought to our attention today, "two members of the Spanish based Epsilon Team, a 27 year veteran of Dakar, were arrested in France after 1,5t of cocaine was found in their vehicle." Three other Spaniards have also been arrested as alleged international drug dealers.
The truck rolled off a ship in the French port of Le Havre straight from Valparaiso, Chile last Wednesday. Apparently it only took a few hours for French port authorities to smell something shady and start busting heads.
Epsilon claims to operate a fleet of seventeen different race support vehicles they hire out to teams who need them while running their own race efforts. Twelve are Mercedes-Benz AK trucks in their support fleet, and six of those are 8x8s. The truck reeled in as the cocaine mule could have been a 34.35, 35.44, 41.40, 41.50, or one of two 41.54 8x8s.
Euro Weekly News says the cocaine is believed to have originated in Bolivia and Colombia. Insight Crime says that drug traffic has not been a major issue in Chile in the past, but the nation's relevance in international narcotics trade has increased recently.
Latercera puts the value of the drugs seized at "some 270 million euros" (370 million US dollars). If that's true I bet the blokes involved in this nonsense are just praying the cops find them before whoever's money they lost does.
Euro Weekly News also specified that "the truck driver, Xavi Mora, was arrested near Normandy along with another man, only identified as J. B." and "team coordinator David Olivares was detained at his home in Barcelona" while Bulgarian police locked down two of their own nationals in connection with the event.
Chilean Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick told Latercera that five people have been arrested so far, and that more perpetrators are still sought in the ongoing investigation against what he described as an "international network" of drug trade.
Epsilon provides support trucks to racing teams all over the world, and they regularly move immense amounts of equipment over all kinds of borders. Authorities really have their work cut out for them getting to the bottom of what could be a very tangled web of illicit alliances and dirty deeds.
While getting over 2,000 pounds of blow off the streets is a win for public safety, this incident is unfortunate ammo for those who would shut down the Dakar Rally. Let's hope police nip this issue in the bud before too much fear arises around the running of an international off-road race.
Hat tip to BORSUQ!
Image: Epsilon, Daniel/Flickr