Investigators uncovered a total of 23 tons of cocaine with a street value of billions of Euros in a cross-European drugs bust, German customs said Wednesday. The cocaine was uncovered in Germany and Belgium.
The mega shipments together are an absolute record, Dutch police said in a statement. Never before has so much cocaine been intercepted at once, they added.
A company based in Netherlands gave German authorities a tip-off. This led to them finding 16 metric tons of cocaine at the port of Hamburg on February 12.
The cocaine was hidden inside containers from Paraguay.
Customs officers at the port took a closer look at the Paraguayan containers after noticing clear irregularities with its contents — tin cans that were meant to be filled with putty.
The customs officials ordered for the containers to be unloaded. They found that beyond a layer of genuine goods packed just behind the container door, numerous tin cans were in fact filled with other goods.
In all, some 16 tons of cocaine was eventually found in more than 1,700 tin cans. Each contained eight cocaine packages weighing more than 9 kilograms each.
Joint investigations into the stash led authorities to find another 7.2 metric tons in cocaine at the port of Antwerp in Belgium, German customs said.
Antwerp is Europe's second largest port. The stash in Belgium was hidden in a container full of wooden blocks, investigators said.
The drugs were all bound for the same destination in the Netherlands, Dutch police said.
The 28-year-old owner of an import company in the major port city of Rotterdam was arrested early Wednesday in the Netherlands over the illicit cargo. The arrest was made as Dutch police searched two premises — one in Rotterdam and another in the nearby village of Vlaardingen.