Italian police find $880 million of cocaine stashed in banana crates

ROME (Reuters) - Police in southern Italy said on Tuesday they had seized 2,700 kg of highly pure cocaine hidden in two refrigerated containers containing bananas that had been shipped from Ecuador.

The haul found in the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro would have been worth more than 800 million euros ($880 million), Italy's Guardia di Finanza police said in a statement.

The shipment had come from Guayaquil in Ecuador and its final destination was Armenia, via the Black Sea port of Batumi in Georgia.

The drugs were discovered in the 12-metre (40-foot) containers thanks to specialised scanners, helped by a sniffer dog named Joel, the police added.

Police said they had found a further 600 kg (1,320 pounds) of cocaine in the last few days in fruit containers from Ecuador being shipped through Gioia Tauro. These consignments had been destined for other parts of Italy, Croatia, Greece and Georgia, they added.

Calabria is home to the 'Ndrangheta, which has supplanted Sicily's Cosa Nostra as Italy's most powerful mafia organisation and plays a central role in the drugs trade. ($1 = 0.9084 euros)

(Writing by Keith Weir, Editing by Alex Richardson)