In late November 2020, the Chilean Navy seized more than half a ton of cocaine in the country’s north, the largest cocaine seizure by sea in its history, the institution said in a statement. In addition to the seizure, the operation, carried out by the Iquique Maritime Police and the Fourth Naval Zone’s Immediate Response Group (GRI, in Spanish), contributed to dismantling a criminal gang.
“Following six months of investigation by the Chilean Navy, together with the Tarapacá Regional Prosecutor’s Office, we were able to disrupt a gang that was bringing drugs from Peru,” Chilean Minister of Defense Mario Desbordes said in a statement.
The criminal gang smuggled the drugs from Peru in an artisanal fishing vessel using as a base the Guardiamarina Riquelme port in the city of Iquique, Tarapacá region, the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio reported. The boat would sail toward the international maritime border to receive the drugs and then head toward Tarapacá’s southern sector, the newspaper indicated.
With this information, the Navy prepared an operation to intercept the vessel. According to Chilean Navy Rear Admiral Alberto Soto, head of the Fourth Naval Zone, 40 Navy personnel, three surface units, and the Fourth Naval Zone’s GRI took part in the operation. Service members captured six people and found 16 packages containing 532 kilograms of cocaine, the Navy said.
“The analysis that the Maritime Police conducted on the activities […] revealed that this organization, which had already taken part in other trafficking [crimes], was going to act again, and we were able […] to find the exact moment to seize this enormous quantity of drugs,” Raúl Arancibia, Tarapacá’s regional prosecutor, said in a statement. “[The detainees] are all Chileans, including one who was living in Tacna, Peru, and who was the person who coordinated and supplied the drugs.”
Investigations that will reveal the gang’s reach and lead to the arrest of all its members are ongoing, the Navy said.