Custom officials on Wednesday in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium seized more than 23,000 kilograms of cocaine, worth billions of dollars, in an international operation that resulted in one arrest.
Officials were calling the seize one of the largest amounts of cocaine ever seized in all of Europe.
The operation lasted more than a week and culminated in the arrest Wednesday of a 28-year-old man from Vlaardingden, the Netherlands, whose address was on the shipment, Dutch police said.
Working on a tip from colleagues in the Netherlands, customs officers in the German port city of Hamburg opened three containers listed as containing construction putty, German Customs Investigation head Rene Matschke said.
In the container testing facility, they found that the cans were loaded not only with wall putty but also with packages of cocaine.
Investigators found 16,174 kilograms of cocaine, hidden in 1,728 cans of construction putty. The containers came on a ship from Paraguay, via Tangier and Rotterdam, officials said.
The Dutch police said a “risk analysis” they carried out led German authorities to check the three containers on February 12.
Dutch authorities said that following that seizure, they began an investigation into the recipient of the Hamburg shipment, which led them to 11 containers on their way from Panama to Antwerp, ostensibly filled with pineapple, mackerel, squid and wood.
Belgian authorities on Saturday found 7,200 kilograms of cocaine in the container carrying blocks of wood, according to the Dutch police.
“The intercepted mega-shipments to the Netherlands together form an absolute record,” the Dutch police said in a statement. “Never before has so much cocaine been intercepted at once.”
Officials said it was not only the largest seizure of cocaine ever in Europe, but one of the largest single seizures worldwide.