Drug cartels are ingeniously using the mega-hyped sports phenomenon that is the World Cup to smuggle cocaine across international borders.
Soccer merch dipped in liquid cocaine was reportedly confiscated by police at a Colombian airport, exposing the outlandish scheme.
InSight Crime has further details:
Fourteen cocaine-soaked shirts styled like the Colombian national soccer team’s uniform were seized by Colombian police at the international airport in the capital Bogotá on June 22.
Authorities said traffickers had dissolved approximately 5 kilograms of liquid cocaine into the shirts that were headed for the Netherlands. Upon arrival, the drug was to be extracted and transformed into a powder prior to distribution.
World Cup paraphernalia has been used to smuggle drugs in elsewhere as well. Argentinian authorities found money, cocaine and marijuana packed into fake World Cup trophies in Buenos Aires.
ABC reports that "20 kilos of marijuana, 10 kilos of cocaine, 1,800 doses of crack-cocaine known as "paco," and 400,000 Argentine pesos ($14,819) were seized" by officials.
The gangsters' tactics have even earned them a nickname: "Narcos de la Copa," reports Business Insider:
Drug trafficking groups are highly innovative, and it is not surprising that they are taking advantage of the World Cup euphoria. Big, worldwide events such as soccer tournaments and the Olympic Games are a good opportunity for traffickers to conceal illegal drugs amid the flow merchandise and swarms of travelers.
At the same time, the sport of soccer more broadly has had a long relationship with drug trafficking, ranging from smuggling operations to higher-level criminal schemes.
Colombian traffickers' relationship to soccer can be traced back to the 1980s, the heyday of the Medellín and Cali Cartels. Both cartels are said to have financed various clubs in Colombia and used them to launder substantial profits derived from cocaine trafficking.
Argentina's most notorious football fans, the "barras bravas," have also long been tied to drug crimes. Several have been accused of drug dealing, and of having relationships with drug trafficking gangs.
Today, InSight Crime believes that soccer matches are also a favoured meeting place for drug traffickers, particularly the "Invisibles" — powerful crime bosses who hide in broad daylight."
"These merchants of death have endless ingenuity, but don't be fooled," said Cristian Ritondo, security minister of Buenos Aires province. "They shouldn't be admired. On the contrary... they are now in jail."