Cocaine bitumen drum

Drug smuggling

Large round metal container, cut open to reveal a smaller container inside

On 24 January 1994 HM Customs made its biggest drugs seizure at the time - 1250kg of cocaine concealed on the cargo ship 'Jurata'. It was hidden in 47 drums of bitumen. This is one of the oil drums, still bearing traces of bitumen.

The curious route taken by the Polish vessel alerted Customs Officers. It was carrying PVC pellets from Mexico to Birkenhead. However it had called in at Venezuela and picked up six containers of roofing materials, including drums of bitumen. The cost of transporting the bitumen was greater than its resale value. Something was wrong.

Customs worked with the Fire Brigade to cut open the outer drums. They removed solid bitumen, to reveal the smaller inner drums containing cocaine hidden inside. The drugs had a street value of £250 million.

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