Swiss police say an investigation is underway after workers at a Nespresso warehouse in western Switzerland found 500 kilograms (over 1,100 pounds) of cocaine, with a street value of 50 million. euros, while unloading coffee beans that had arrived by train.
Freiburg regional police said Thursday night that the company alerted on Monday to the discovery at the facility in the town of Romont and immediately set up a “wide security perimeter” around it with a large deployment of officers. Customs and border control agents were called.
The first indications were that the shipment appeared in five containers that had arrived by sea from Brazil before being transferred to a train, authorities said.
“The seized cocaine has a purity degree of 80% and its market value is estimated at more than 50 million francs,” police said, adding that the stash appeared “destined for the European market.”
On Friday, the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that the availability of cocaine in Europe is “likely to be at an all-time high.”
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but it is part of the Schengen zone that allows visa-free travel between many European countries.
The monitoring center said it estimates the EU’s retail cocaine market was worth at least 10.5 billion euros ($11.1 billion) in 2020, though it warned the figure is likely to underestimate the true size of the market.
He said the largest quantities of cocaine are being seized in Belgian, Dutch and Spanish ports, but increasing amounts are turning up in ports elsewhere “suggesting that trafficking groups are extending their activities to ports where cocaine interdiction measures may be perceived as less intensive.
Swiss food and drink giant Nestlé, which owns Nespresso, tried to assure customers that “all of our products are safe to consume.”
“We have strict quality controls on the green coffee that arrives at our warehouses right through to the finished product,” the Vevey, Switzerland-based company said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “The substance in question did not come into contact with any of our products or production equipment used to make our products.”
Nestlé said it was unable to provide further details due to the ongoing police investigation.
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