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Vienna, 16 January 2012 Largest heroin seizure ever at Austrian border - 130 kgs of heroin seized in lorry search by customs officials

In a customs sting at the Suben border crossing on 11 January, officials from the operational unit of the Linz Wels Customs Office struck a decisive blow against heroin trafficking along the Balkan route.

When customs officials using a mobile x-ray vehicle selected a suspicious Bulgarian refrigerated lorry for a customs check and pulled it out of traffic, little did they know what a haul they had just made. After analysing the x-ray images, customs officials began to suspect that the walls of the empty vehicle concealed hollow spaces in which contraband might be hidden. The vehicle was brought to the customs inspection hall of the Suben Customs Field Office, where officials conducted a more thorough search. Initially, officials were unable to find any point of access to the cavities within the vehicle’s walls, and thereupon took a drill sample. The morphine derivatives testing subsequently undertaken came back positive.

In the course of further investigations, officials were then able to identify and open the very well camouflaged hatch leading to the hidden compartment. By means of an ingenious technical system, the narcotics smugglers had succeeded in hiding a total of 230 packages of heroin (weighing about 130 kg) in the roof area of the vehicle trailer. This was the largest sei zure of heroin ever made in a single customs check. As one of the officials involved in the operation confirmed, the customs service would not have been able to make this seizure without the technical support of their mobile x-ray vehicle.

The driver was arrested, and both he and the heroin haul were immediately handed over to the Upper Austria Land Office of Criminal Investigation for further investigations. The laboratory testing, which is currently ongoing, will determine the actual quantities involved and their black market value. Initial estimates, which are only preliminary, indicate a market value as high as EUR 50 million. Austrian Finance Minister Dr. Maria Fekter: “This seizure demonstrates the clout of our Austrian Customs Authority, a highly effective, professional organisation.”