Sweden Authorities Seize 1.4 Tons of Cocaine, ‘One of the Biggest’ Seizures Ever

According to a Swedish customs official, authorities confiscated approximately 1.4 tons of cocaine last week in a port near Stockholm, as reported by Associated Press.

While the precise figure is still pending, Swedish customs official Stefan Granath told broadcaster SVT, “If it’s as big as we think, it is one of the biggest seizures ever made.” Authorities discovered the cocaine in a container in the Nynashamn port south of Stockholm on April 18, according to Granath.

Six men have also been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the drug’s transport.

The Latest of Many Record Drug Seizures in Europe

Granath noted the size of the seizure, saying that only five to 10 years ago it was “very unusual” to seize only 100 kilograms, or 220.5 pounds. 

To put it in perspective, 1.4 tons is equivalent to 2,800 pounds. That’s more than the volume of total cocaine seized by Sweden in 2022, and the country’s previous cocaine seizure peak — 822 kilograms or 1,812 pounds. The prior record was set in 2018, with 300 kilograms or 661 pounds of seized cocaine.

Granath also added that it’s likely that the cocaine was meant for the European market and that Sweden was only a point of transit.

It’s historic for Sweden, but it also acts as one of the more significant drug seizures for Europe as a whole. 

Earlier this year, Portuguese authorities discovered 1.3 tons of cocaine within shipments of frozen fish, similarly expected for distribution across Europe and unloaded at the Lisbon port. Authorities noted that the way the drug was hidden made it extremely difficult to detect and that the frozen fish had to be completely destroyed in order to remove the cocaine.

In 2023, Netherlands customs agents seized a whopping 17,600 pounds of cocaine hidden inside crates of bananas in what was the largest haul ever collected in Rotterdam’s port, the largest port in Europe that had processed more than 220 million tons through its terminals in the first six months of 2023.


The Shifting Culture in Sweden

According to Swedish radio, the recent figure and seizure is indicative of more efficient search methods and an increase in the flow of drugs as a whole. 

Demand for cocaine appears to be growing rapidly across the European Union, with governments blaming the drug trade for increased violent outbreaks in major port cities like Antwerp in Brussels, Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Marseille in France. 

On top of some of the other recent busts, Antwerp customs reported that it had seized 116 tons of cocaine in its port throughout 2023, setting a record for the second year in a row according to an Associated Press report.

EU member countries stopped a total of 303 tons of cocaine in 2021, the most recent year for which figures are available. AP reports that 75% of that quantity was seized in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

Outlets have suggested that the European drug boom is impacting neighboring countries like Sweden. EL PAÍS notes that the Swedish government opted to put the army on the streets last September to combat a wave of murders linked to gang rivalries.

Sweden now has the second-highest gun crime death rate in Europe, with poverty and inequality as driving factors as well as arms and drug trafficking. It’s a stark shift over the past several years, as Sweden’s once peaceful image has been drastically altered by an increased onslaught of gang violence.

“What started out as gun violence between young gangs looking to defend their territory has turned into a vicious circle of firearms trafficking and gun violence,” said Nils Duquet, a firearms researcher based at Brussels’ Flemish Peace Institute. “Gangs have also matured and are no longer just the street criminals, but are often connected to higher-level criminals as well.”

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