Swedish customs agents have seized 867 kilograms (1,911 pounds) of cocaine at the Helsingborg port since the beginning of this year, the customs agency said, compared with the 822 kilograms seized in the whole of Sweden last year.
Including seizures abroad destined for Helsingborg, a total of 1.3 tonnes of cocaine had been seized since September 2022.
Magnus Pettersson, a senior prosecutor with the Prosecution Authority’s unit for international and organised crime, told a press conference the seizures “were completely without precedent in Swedish criminal history.”
“Sweden, and the port of Helsingborg, has become the point of transit for South American cocaine on its way out onto the illegal European market,” Pettersson said.
The narcotics are being smuggled in containers often transporting fruits and vegetables on freight ships from South America, in many cases Ecuador, he said.
Hidden compartments are often built into the containers. Helsingborg had emerged as a hub for drug trafficking because the frequency of harbour controls had been too low and security around the port had been lacking.
Coupled together, this meant there was a “near free flow of cocaine” both into and out of the port.
In order to stop the smuggling, every refrigerated container from South America passing through the port would need to be controlled, the customs agency said. The smuggling was believed to involve both Swedish and international criminal networks.
In recent months, Swedish Customs had on multiple occasions discovered tracks from smugglers breaking into the port area to empty the containers.
Equipment such as “bags, bolt cutters and blow torches” had been found, the agency said in a statement.
While additional resources had been committed, the customs agency lamented that few arrests had been made, noting that the only arrest had been of two Albanian citizens after they had collected 47 kilograms of cocaine in December.
Sweden has struggled to rein in a surge of shootings and bombings in recent years, as gangs settle scores fuelled by the narcotics trade.