Netherlands: Record 8,000 kg of cocaine, estimated value of 600 million euros seized

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  • Customs officials in Rotterdam seized a shipment of more than 8,000 kg (16,635 pounds) of cocaine concealed in a container of bananas. 
  • The drugs, with an estimated value of 600 million euros ($660 million) have since been destroyed. 
  • No arrests in the case have been made in the Netherlands. 
  • This was the biggest haul ever recorded at the port. 
  • Rotterdam is a major center for drug trafficking. 
  • The Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain are the top three European countries for illegal cocaine imports. 

Customs officials in Rotterdam seized a shipment of more than 8,000 kg (16,635 pounds) of cocaine concealed in a container of bananas, Dutch prosecutors said, the largest on record in the port.

A spokesperson said the drugs had traveled from Ecuador via the Panama Canal to Rotterdam before sniffer dogs found them in a container check on July 13. The seizure had been kept secret to assist in the investigation, which is continuing.

The drugs, with an estimated value of 600 million euros ($660 million) have since been destroyed. No arrests in the case have been made in the Netherlands, the spokesperson said.

This was the biggest haul ever recorded at the port. The last biggest was a 4,500-kilogram haul made in 2020. Another major seizure was made in 2021 when 3,600 kilograms of the drug was found. The drugs were discovered in July, but the find was only announced on Thursday.

The cocaine was hidden in a container alongside bananas on a ship that had arrived from Ecuador. Over 8,000 packets of the drug were discovered in the containers. “On July 13, customs carried out the largest ever drug seizure in the port of Rotterdam,” prosecutors said. “A total of 8,064 one-kilo packets of cocaine were extracted from twelve pallets of bananas.

“Once again we have succeeded.in dealing a serious blow to the port’s drug traffickers,” Rotterdam Customs Director Peter van Buijtenen said. He called the haul “enormous.”

Dutch customs said that such large loads of cocaine are becoming rarer, with most recent hauls being substantially smaller than that reported on Thursday. Rotterdam is one of the main ports for drug traffickers bringing cocaine to Europe.

In 2022, about 47,000 kilograms of narcotics were seized in Rotterdam. Investigators say only around 50-60% of drugs smuggled through Rotterdam are discovered. In the first half of 2023, Dutch customs seized about 29,702 kilograms of drugs, which is more than in the same period last year (a little over 22,000 kilograms).

The Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain are the top three European countries for illegal cocaine imports. Most of the drug is shipped out from Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Thursday’s announcement comes a day after Fernando Villavicencio, a leading presidential candidate in Ecuador, was shot dead at a campaign rally. He had earlier reported threats against him and his team, allegedly made by a drug-trafficking gang.

(With inputs from agencies)

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