Authorities in Paraguay have found at least seven badly decomposed bodies inside a shipment of fertilizer that left Serbia three months ago.
The container, which came via Argentina, was unloaded earlier this week at a port on the outskirts of the Paraguayan capital, Asunción, and was collected by an agricultural company.
The bodies were discovered alongside mattresses, mobile phones and food supplies when the container was opened on Friday.
Public prosecutor Marcelo Saldívar said that the victims appeared to be stowaways. “We are working on the basis that these people broke in to gain passage from there to here. Obviously, they did not calculate the distance well and did not survive the trip.”
He said that bags with clothes and an opening for ventilation were also found in the area of the container where the bodies were discovered. “All the bodies are decomposed. They are just hair and bones,” he said.
The prosecutor added that, given the small amount of food the stowaways appeared to have brought with them, it was possible that they had been promised to be taken a much shorter distance to a western European country and not to South America.
Officials said that both Serbian and Moroccan identity documents were found in the container.
Paraguayan authorities will contact their Serbian counterparts to attempt to identify the victims, Saldívar said.
The private Terport facility where the container arrived in Paraguay was recently the site of Paraguay’s biggest ever cocaine bust.
On 20 October, police seized 11 shipping containers at the port that were scheduled to transport charcoal to Israel via Argentina and Belgium.
A total of 2,893kg of cocaine has so far been discovered in the containers, with an estimated street value of $620m. Two of the containers are still to be searched.
Christian Turrini, a former director general of Paraguayan public television, was arrested under charges of international drug trafficking. Police continue to search for other suspects.