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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Cocaine 'smuggled in pizza oven'
By Daniel Schweimler
BBC News, Buenos Aires

A Colombian worker picks a regular coca leaf
Cocaine-producing countries use Argentina as a transit point
Customs officials in Spain have uncovered another imaginative attempt to smuggle cocaine into the country from South America.

Almost 200kg (440lb) of cocaine worth more than $6m (3.3m) was hidden in a pizza oven shipped from Argentina.

Customs officials in Barcelona found the cocaine wrapped in bags, covered in lead and hidden in the oven's base.

Cocaine producers from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia continue to use Argentina as one of their main transit points.

The three-tonne oven was being shipped to a company that turned out not to exist and one man, a Bolivian, was arrested.

The haul was merely the latest in a series that have originated in Argentina.

Previous hauls have been discovered hidden in tennis racquets, chocolate biscuits, shoes and, on one occasion, dentists' chairs.

The mathematics are simple: one kilogram of cocaine fetches $3,000 in Bolivia, $9,000 in Argentina and $40,000 in Europe.

Argentina has become a major transit point for shipments from the cocaine-producing countries to Europe for a number of reasons:

  • The volume of people and goods from Buenos Aires to Spain and Italy

  • The traditionally lax controls at Argentine airports and ports, exacerbated by massive corruption

  • The capacity to find new and imaginative ways of smuggling the drugs.

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