Hunt on for British Pablo Escobar after 300kg cocaine bust in banana shipment

Police are hunting for a man dubbed the 'British Pablo Escobar' after four others were arrested over a mammoth 300kg cocaine bust.

Armed police raided a fortified rental villa in Thessaloniki, Greece last Thursday (June 9), arresting the men from Liverpool and London aged 38, 45, 48, and 52.

The Hellenic Police are now after a fifth British man who they say is overseas.

The arrests came after 300kg of cocaine was found stashed inside a shipment of bananas, identified in the Italian port of Calabria before being seized in Thessaloniki.

The gang are also allegedly linked to another major cocaine bust, according to police, which saw 654kg intercepted on a ship in Calabria in April, reports the Liverpool ECHO.

According to Greek media, the men appeared in court this week for a pre-trial hearing but "remained silent". Under Greek privacy laws their identities have not been released.

Any trial could be a considerable time away.

Greek journalists report the missing suspect, aged 41, is believed by the authorities to be in Colombia and is one of the biggest players in international cocaine trafficking.

He is also said to be major target of the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with reports suggesting he may personally be in control of around 10% of the world's cocaine trade.

Of the suspects captured in Greece, one is described as a "hardened criminal" who allegedly tried to snatch a police officer's gun during the arrest.

Greek media has reported that one of suspects is the brother of the missing cartel kingpin, and was already wanted for "burning a man alive".

The alleged involvement of British men in the conspiracy has raised eyebrows amongst organised crime experts.

Calabria is the home territory of the powerful 'Ndrangheta mafia clans, which are believed to control around 80% of cocaine trafficking in mainland Europe.

Dr Anna Sergi, Professor of criminology and organised crime at the University of Essex, told the Liverpool ECHO there has been little evidence of systematic collaboration between Italian mafia groups and British gangs.

Greek ports are a favoured trafficking route of powerful gangs from Albania and the Western Balkans, who have established an enormous presence in the British underworld, particularly in London.

Dr Sergi said the suggestion by Greek police that some of the seized cocaine was destined for Australia was "interesting", as 'Ndrangheta clans are seen as the main players in the trafficking of cocaine down under.

As well as the cocaine, Greek police seized a handgun and bullets, radio, GPS positioning equipment, 11 mobile phones and cash.

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