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Hamburg police seize 1.5 tons of cocaine

Sou-Jie van Brunnersum
August 10, 2020

Authorities in Hamburg have found over €300 million worth of cocaine in a cargo ship container. Officials warn the global drug trade continues to thrive despite temporary border closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

A customs officer opens a bag of cocaine
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Reinhardt

Hamburg authorities discovered 1.5 tons of cocaine in a container freight, one of the largest quantities ever seized in the northern German port city, a spokesperson for the Customs Investigations Office said on Monday.

The massive stash, which has an estimated street value of around €300 million ($353 million), was hidden between sacks of rice in the container which came from Guyana, local newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt reported.

"The 1.5 tons of cocaine seized may be a highly pure drug, which would be tripled in price for street sales," the Hamburger Abendblatt quoted an official as saying. 

Read more: Germany: Drug smuggling increased drastically in 2019

The container had arrived in Hamburg's port at the end of June on the 300-meter-long container ship, "CMA CGM Jean Gabriel."

Here, the container was to be loaded onto a feeder ship together with 11 other transport containers and then ultimately carry the cargo to Poland. For this purpose, the container was temporarily stored at the Hamburg terminal.

Investigators at the Joint Customs and Police Investigation Group (JIT) had reportedly received a tip-off about drug smuggling.

Read more: Why is Colombia's cocaine production so high?

The container in question was then taken to the city's Waltershof customs office and examined in a testing facility. Officers found 47 large packages hidden between the rice sacks and within those packages, a total of 1,277 small parcels with cocaine. 

The parcels all had various symbols on them, including a cat's face, the Gallic rooster, and the Ampelmännchen (red and green traffic light symbols shown on pedestrian signals in Germany). Several hundred of the packages were marked with the same logo.

Infografik Drogenkonsum in Europa nach COVID Lockdown EN

Authorities presumed the cocaine was to be distributed from Poland to bulk buyers all over Europe who would then sell the drugs to street dealers. 

The latest find is among the largest quantities of cocaine ever seized in Hamburg. A year ago, customs officers seized 4.5 tons of cocaine with a street value of almost €1 billion. The narcotic was transported by a cargo ship from Uruguayand was destined for Antwerp in Belgium.  

An earlier version of this story mistakenly described Guyana as neighboring Colombia. This has been corrected.