NEWS

US tipoff led to huge coke haul

The discovery of a shipment of 220 kilos of cocaine in the port of Piraeus on Tuesday, which police yesterday described as the largest ever seized in Greece, followed a tip-off by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Finance Ministry’s financial crime squad (SDOE) said. The Greek authorities are now seeking five people, all of whom have previously been implicated in the drug trade. The DEA told SDOE last November that a large quantity of cocaine would be smuggled into Greece from Colombia. A container holding 25 tons of rice, in which two sacks, each containing 200 bags of cocaine, were concealed, was loaded onto a cargo ship in Baranquilla, Colombia on November 11. In Barcelona, Spain, the container was transferred to another ship that arrived in Piraeus on December 13 and was kept under surveillance by SDOE. The shipping documents identified the sender as the Colombian company Comercializadora Vega and the recipient as Don ABEE, based in Kallithea, Athens. The owners of Don, meanwhile, had closed their offices and disappeared the previous November, after SDOE found stolen goods in the company warehouses and forged checks. According to sources, the head of Don was Cypriot-born Christakis Christodoulou. A person identifying himself by the name of Kalopoulos, claiming to represent Don, had called the shipping company to give what he claimed was Don’s new address, although it proved to be false. The search for the five suspects, meanwhile, has also spread to several other European countries, as police believe that Greece was simply another stopover point for the shipment. In October, police seized 205 kilograms of cocaine in Preveza, western Greece. They were also reported to have confiscated 245 kilograms on a ship docked in Evia in 1995. It was not clear why they referred to the latest haul as the biggest in Greece. The archbishop held a memorial service at the site. Before that, the Greek prime minister and Demetrius had held a meeting in which Simitis praised the role the church plays in promoting Greek interests, and he promised to help the church’s educational activities.