Paraguayan held after 338 kg of cocaine found in tomato cans

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 04, 2013 05:30 hrs

Asuncion, Feb 4 (IANS/EFE) A Paraguayan exporter was arrested in a police operation that found 338 kg of cocaine hidden in a shipment of 1,400 cans of a tomato product being sent to Spain, officials said.

Paraguayan Interior Minister Carmelo Caballero told a press conference Saturday that Friday's operation was a "direct blow against drug trafficking" and estimated that the drug would have a value of $20 million on the European market.

"An exporter is detained in the case, certain to be indicted and, apart from that, (Friday night) two raids were carried out - one in the storeroom where the shipment was being prepared and where several more pieces of evidence were collected, and the other at the exporter's address," police commander Aldo Pastore said.

In a communique, National Police said Saturday that agents found 300 packets of cocaine weighing 338 kg in 1,400 cans labelled as a tomato product.

The exporter in custody has been identified as Carlos Alberto Echague Martinez of the Avati SA company, and the shipment was headed for the Spanish company C.B. Tropical in the southern city of Malaga.

Besides the man under arrest, police are investigating three foreign citizens from Argentina and Chile, suspected members of a drug-trafficking organization, though the commander refused to identify them while investigations are still in progress.

He added that only after analyses have been completed will it be possible to say if the cocaine came from Bolivia or Colombia.

Pastore said that this is the first seizure in Paraguay of drugs hidden in liquids such as the tomato puree - up to now they have been detected in shipments of lumber, handicrafts and grains.

"Drug traffickers are very inventive and are always changing their ways of trafficking," he said.



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