– containers offloaded in DR before heading to Germany
In light of the recent 1.5-tonne cocaine bust in Germany in a shipment of rice from Guyana, the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) confirmed that all Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were followed during the packing.
On Monday, Hamburg authorities discovered the cocaine in a container freight – one of the largest quantities ever seized in the northern German port city. The massive stash, which has an estimated street value of around US$353 million, was hidden between sacks of rice in the container that left Guyana’s port.
On Friday, the GRDB in a statement explained that the records showed that the cargo ship container originated from a rice mill in Berbice, and was consigned to a company, FHU KONPACK.
The rice was transported by more than one truck from Berbice to Georgetown, and the rice was offloaded onto the containers at the wharf by labourers, a process which it said took several hours.
“Fumigation, which is also part of GRDB’s SOP, was done after the container was fully loaded, in the presence of a National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) officer. The container was then locked by the shipper’s representative and all seals were placed on the containers by the shipper’s representative. The serial numbers were then recorded by the GRDB officer,” the entity claimed.
After the container was fumigated along with the placement of a shipping line seal and GRDB’s fumigation sticker, their responsibilities ended.
Nevertheless, it was confirmed that the containers were scanned by Customs authorities between May 21 and 22 before being loaded onto the vessel, MV Asiatic Wind on May 25. It departed Guyana the following day. The final destination for the rice was Poland.
However, the vessel arrived at Caucedo, Dominican Republic, on June 7 and was discharged on the same day. Containers were then loaded onto another vessel, CMA CGM Jean Gabriel on June 13, 2020.
It departed Caucedo, Dominican Republic, on the same day and arrived in Hamburg, Germany on June 27 and was discharged the following day.
“The officer on duty on the day the rice was packed confirmed that all of GRDB’s Standard Operating Procedures were followed. The containers were inspected and checks were made in keeping with the Operating Procedures,” the Board contended.
It went on to say that random inspections are done at the mill and upon loading it onto the container to determine quality but it is not within the remit of the agency to specifically check for drugs.
“GRDB’s function is to grade the quality of rice (size of grains and moisture content of cargo), and to ensure that a standard quality of rice is exported. GRDB is surprised that any suggestion has been made placing any responsibility at its door. GRDB is not a police enforcement agency and does not participate in crime investigation, prevention or enforcement. It does not check for drugs,” the statement explained.
Investigators at the Joint Customs and Police Investigation Group (JIT) had reportedly received a tip-off about drug smuggling. The container in question was then taken to the city’s Waltershof customs office and examined in a testing facility where officers found 47 large packages hidden between the rice sacks and within those packages, a total of 1277 small parcels with cocaine.
The parcels all had various symbols on them, including a cat’s face, the Gallic rooster, and the Ampelmännchen (red and green traffic light symbols shown on pedestrian signals in Germany). Several hundred of the packages were marked with the same logo.
Authorities presumed the cocaine was to be distributed from Poland to bulk buyers all over Europe who would then sell the drugs to street dealers, Deutsche Welle reported.
The latest find is among the largest quantities of cocaine ever seized in Hamburg. A year ago, customs officers seized 4.5 tonnes of cocaine with a street value of almost €1 billion. The narcotic was transported by a cargo ship from Uruguay and was destined for Antwerp in Belgium.
Since the information was brought to light, the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit has been actively investigating the matter. On Friday, an official told Guyana Times that they are continuing the probe.