STOCKHOLM, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Half a ton of cocaine, with a street value of hundreds of millions of kronor, was stopped at the Swedish border last year, Swedish News SVT reported on Sunday.
The most common route to Sweden is, according to police and customs staff, the Oresund Bridge, but Swedish police warn that criminal networks are also infiltrating fruit wholesalers using ports.
Some 90 percent of all fruit and vegetables shipped to the Nordic countries go through ports. Fruit and vegetable containers leaving South America for the Nordic region are used by smugglers to ship cocaine, usually without the owner of the container being aware. Instead, the smugglers rely on corrupt staff scattered throughout ports around the world.
"They are the ones who are the eyes and ears of the criminal networks at the harbor in order to be able to carry out the smuggling," Patrik Andersson, head of the police intelligence unit for southern Sweden, told SVT. Andersson's unit is working on mapping the networks.
Andersson believes criminal networks have infiltrated local fruit wholesalers and also the port of Helsingborg with people ready to handle the logistics of smuggling.
"They monitor the smuggling in the ports and then pick up the cocaine when it reaches the wholesalers," Andersson told SVT.
European law enforcement agency Europol has identified this as a major issue in the fight against drugs.
In 2010, two men were sentenced in Sweden to ten-year imprisonment each for gross attempted drug offences. The men had tried to smuggle what they thought was 106 kilos of cocaine through the port of Helsingborg, but police and customs had replaced the drugs before the cargo arrived.
Criminal interest in the port hasn't diminished since then. Cocaine loads worth millions of kronor continue to be intercepted en route to the port of Helsingborg.
In recent years, the Swedish Customs Administration has found more and more cocaine on its way to Sweden -- almost half a ton in 2018 alone.