BUENOS AIRES— A band of 11 suspected cocaine smugglers were caught posing as a festive bus tour group destined for a Buenos Aires carnival, Argentine police reported this week.
The busload of fake "tourists from Ecuador" were stopped near the Bolivia-Argentine border town of Salvador Mazza. After the passengers, 10 men and one woman, said they were going to a carnival in Buenos Aires, police decided to search the bus, and found more than 350 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside.
The drugs were packed in bricks, wrapped and sprayed with spices to deter police dogs. Police believe the passengers were hoping World Cup excitement would have relaxed vigilance at the border. "We thought something was not right. A bus with an Ecuador license plate, with ten men and a woman was strange," a policeman told Clarin.
After scanners indicated something unusual under the vehicle's floor, the bus was "literally taken apart" to reveal a hidden level hiding 300 bricks of 1.1 kilograms of cocaine, valued at just under $15.8 million.
"It wasn't so well hidden," said the police officer. The 11 suspects were detained. No carnival, alas, and no World Cup either.