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Press release4 May 2020European Anti-Fraud Office2 min read

Spain: The Inland Revenue seizes 1,100 kilos of cocaine in the port of Bilbao

Partner's press release



Within the framework of operation 'Hammer

  • This is the largest cocaine seizure in recent years in the Basque Country
  • The narcotic substance was hidden in a container carrying a shipment of bananas from Ecuador
  • It would have been worth more than 30 million euros on the illicit market

21 April 2020 - The Tax Office has seized 1,100 kilos of cocaine hidden in a container carrying a cargo of bananas from Ecuador in the port of Bilbao.

This is the largest seizure of cocaine made in recent years in the Basque Country and one of the largest to date in this territory. 30 million on the illicit market.

The operation, called 'Hammer', is the result of a complex and laborious investigation carried out by Customs Surveillance of the Tax Agency in the Basque Country and the Subdirectorate General of Operations of the Department of Customs and Special Taxes, with the collaboration of the United States Customs Services and other European customs.

Cooperation between different customs services is one of the key tools in the fight against drug trafficking. As a result of this collaboration, it became known that a large shipment of cocaine from Ecuador could be destined for the port of Bilbao at this time.

As a result of this exchange of information, the Tax Agency's Customs Surveillance investigators carried out a detailed analysis of the traffic of goods from this country to Bilbao, in order to determine which container, among all the legal traffic, could be the one that was contaminated.

Drugs hidden in a container

Yesterday, the selected containers from Ecuador were examined. After the opening of the doors of one of the containers carrying bananas and the unloading of the first rows of boxes, a large number of bags could be seen. Once the wrappers were removed, the presence of one thousand packages of a substance was detected, which, after analysis, turned out to be cocaine.

The drugs were hidden in a container carrying legal cargo from Ecuador. This is the 'modus operandi' known as 'rip-off', or 'blind hook', in which criminal organizations contaminate legal cargo containers with backpacks or bags containing the drugs at the ports of origin or during the sea voyage. Once the containers arrive in Europe, criminal organisations remove the packages with the drugs from the container before the legitimate recipient takes possession of their goods.

It has been noted that organizations are trying to take advantage of the confined situation resulting from the health emergency that is occurring around the world to increase their activity.

Aware of these circumstances, customs in all countries have intensified control mechanisms on foreign trade and have established channels of cooperation and exchange of information and risk profiles. 

In addition, the Customs and Special Taxes Department of the Tax Agency has designed a specific plan to prevent criminal organizations from taking advantage of the situation resulting from the declaration of the state of alarm in our country.

Since the state of alert came into force, major operations have been carried out against cocaine trafficking which, with the participation of the Tax Office's Customs Surveillance, have led to the seizure of eight tonnes of this substance, including the arrest made yesterday in Bilbao.

Customs surveillance: Reporting of smuggling and related offences
Free phone: 900351378
Email: denunciasvigilanciaaduaneraatcorreo [dot] aeat [dot] es (denunciasvigilanciaaduanera[at]correo[dot]aeat[dot]es)
Filming of the operation (to download the video you must enter the following web address):


Publication date
4 May 2020
European Anti-Fraud Office
News type
  • Partner's press release