Some 85 million euros (£73 million) worth of cocaine that bore photos of Barcelona superstar, Lionel Messi wearing the shirt of the Spanish club Barcelona, was uncovered by Police forces in Peru. The Messi-branded cocaine was discovered wrapped in containers of squid fillets, destined for Belgium. Some of the 3,123 pounds of cocaine which were found in Lima, had a Messi logo and his picture on the wrapping.
Each parcel of the class A drug bears Lionel Messi’s face, his name and a counterfeited version of his personal branding – a stylized ‘M’ logo which he has been using on social media for several years.
A press release from the Peruvian National Police’s Anti-drugs Office (Dirandro) stated that the Mexican Sinaloa cartel is behind this thwarted shipment. Along with the bricks of cocaine bearing Messi’s name, were other packages wrapped in black and featuring a logo saying “King” with the likeness of the King of Spain.
No one has been arrested or detained in connection with the Messi-branded cocaine shipment, but Mexican drug cartels are believed to be involved in the trade.
This is the second major bust for Peruvian authorities this year. Back in January, Peruvian drug enforcement authorities found 4,508 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $174 million on the streets. The pounds of cocaine were hidden in packages of asparagus, destined for Amsterdam. The police had then arrested a Serbian man and four Peruvians suspected of running a smuggling operation from a gourmet food business. The group was a part of an international drug-trafficking network that shipped cocaine to European countries.
Branding of bricks of cocaine is a common technique employed by drug trafficking organizations throughout Latin America in an effort to guarantee the purity of their product and that the packaging has remained sealed. Drug dealers often package drugs to look like popular brands, in order to make it less likely that anyone will inspect the parcels while they are transported.
According to reports, Peru is the world’s second largest producer of cocaine next to neighboring Colombia and leads the world in coca leaf growing, churning out about 60,000 tons a year.
This is not the first time that 29-year-old footballing superstar has had his identity fraudulently used by smugglers trying to maneuver their illegal products into the market. A similar incident occurred in 2015, when some crooks were found to be selling a drug under the street name ‘Messi’.
It is gathered that Messi’s endorsements are worth an estimated £20 million a year.