4 Brazilian tourists on cruise ship Costa Favolosa arrested for drug smuggling (95 kg/EUR5M-worth cocaine)

   May 17, 2023 ,   Accidents

French authorities have successfully foiled a significant drug smuggling attempt, where they intercepted 95 kilograms of cocaine and apprehended four Brazilian nationals - comprising one man and three women - who used a Costa Cruises ship to carry out their illicit activities.

On May 2nd, at the port of Marseille (France), customs officers observed suspicious behavior from a Brazilian couple who disembarked from the Costa Favolosa cruise ship. The couple, carrying a suitcase, quickly returned to the ship upon realizing the presence of a checkpoint. Shortly afterward, the woman reappeared, this time carrying a backpack. As the agents requested to inspect her belongings, she suddenly changed her mind and tossed the bag into the sea. Fortunately, the customs officers were able to retrieve the bag, which contained 8.4 kilograms of cocaine.

Following this incident, authorities conducted a search of the couple's stateroom and made a startling discovery. Concealed beneath the mattress were six bags containing a total of 86.4 kilograms of cocaine, estimated to be valued at EUR 5+ million. Additionally, a reservation voucher was found, confirming the involvement of two other Brazilians who had left the ship in Marseille for an excursion.

Upon the return of the two remaining Brazilians to the ship, after discarding their bag, they were arrested. All four individuals were taken into custody. The subsequent investigation revealed that they had been recruited as drug mules by a powerful South American drug cartel. After flying across the Atlantic, they boarded the Costa Favolosa cruise ship in Savona, Italy. The criminals had carefully planned a tourist itinerary to avoid arousing suspicion, arranging for their bags to be delivered to a rented apartment in the city center of Marseille.

Authorities suspect that the apprehended individuals constitute the second team involved in an intricate drug trafficking scheme, and they believe another team boarded the ship in Brazil to transport the drugs.

Costa Favolosa embarked from Rio de Janeiro on April 14th for an 18-day transatlantic voyage, making stops in Salvador de Bahia, Recife, Tenerife, Cadiz, and Barcelona, before arriving in Marseille on April 29th. Following a brief 2-day cruise to Savona, the ship returned to Marseille on May 4th for a voyage to Morocco.

The ship's route suggests that the drugs may have initially been concealed on board in Brazil by a first team and subsequently distributed by mules in Marseille or other European ports. The investigation is ongoing as authorities strive to identify all individuals involved in the operation.

For more Costa Favolosa incidents and accidents see the ship's CruiseMinus page.