Italian authorities made a historic seizure of 5.3 tonnes of cocaine during a ship-to-ship transfer off the southern coast of Sicily, as confirmed by the police on Friday.

The estimated value of the confiscated drugs was a staggering 850 million euros ($946 million). As a result of this operation, five individuals were apprehended, according to a statement from the Guardia di Finanza.

The police had been closely monitoring a ship that had sailed from South America and decided to take action in the early hours of Wednesday. A surveillance aircraft observed suspicious activity as packages were being tossed from the ship’s deck into the waters of the Strait of Sicily, with a waiting fishing trawler intended to collect them.

Upon intercepting the trawler, the authorities discovered substantial quantities of drugs concealed in a secret compartment behind the vessel’s paneling. Among the arrested individuals were two Tunisians, an Italian, an Albanian, and a French national.

Sicilian regional president Renato Schifani praised the operation, considering it a significant blow against drug smuggling. In his statement, he condemned the devastating impact of drugs on society, emphasizing that they crush hopes and destroy families.

This operation marks another notable success in Italy’s fight against drug trafficking. In April, Italian police had found nearly 2 tonnes of cocaine floating at sea off eastern Sicily, which they believed had been abandoned for later collection by a cargo ship.

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