World:Shipwrecked smuggling suspects found clinging to floating bales of cocaine

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Suspected drug smugglers have survived hours in shark-infested Pacific Ocean waters by clinging to floating bales of cocaine, according to the Colombian navy.

Key points:

  • The men spent about seven hours in the water after their boat capsized
  • The bales the men were clinging to tested positive for cocaine hydrochloride
  • The men were allegedly smuggling 1.2 tonnes of cocaine, most likely to Central America

The three Colombians were allegedly smuggling 1.2 tonnes of cocaine out of Tumaco in Colombia when their boat was hit by a wave on Saturday and capsized, said Captain Jorge Maldonado of Colombia’s Task Force Against Drug Trafficking.

By the time the men were picked up about 30 nautical miles from Tumaco by a Colombian coastguard vessel, they had been in the water for about seven hours, Captain Maldonado said.

“The coastguard arrived and these three people were floating on a material that by its characteristics resembled drugs,” Captain Maldonado said.

The men were taken ashore along with the floating bales, which tested positive for cocaine hydrochloride.

The men were in good health and will face drug trafficking charges.

The search is continuing for a fourth man who the men said was with them.

“Very possibly they were on their way to Central America,” Captain Maldonado said.

The port of Tumaco is one of the main conduits for drugs exiting Colombia for Central America and the United States.

Colombia remains the world’s largest producer of cocaine, and the United States its biggest consumer.