Swiss police on Thursday seized 500 kilos of cocaine worth £41million from a shipment of coffee beans delivered to a Nespresso plant, officials said.
Workers at the plant in Romont, in the western Swiss canton of Fribourg, alerted authorities on Monday to a mysterious white powder found in sacks of coffee beans that had arrived from Brazil, police said.
Analysis determined the substance was cocaine. A search of five shipping containers ‘delivered the same day by train allowed for the seizure of more than 500 kilos of this drug,’ Fribourg police said.
Swiss police said Thursday they had seized more than 1,100 pounds (500kg) of cocaine from a shipment of coffee beans delivered to a Nespresso plant from Brazil. Pictured: One of five containers of a shipment of coffee beans delivered to the Nespresso plant in Switzerland
Cocaine and coffee bags seized at the Nespresso plant in Romont, Switzerland are seen in this handout picture taken at an unknown location and released May 5, 2022
Staff at the coffee capsule maker, owned by Swiss food giant Nestle, ‘found an undetermined white substance when they unloaded the freshly delivered sacks of coffee beans,’ officials said in a statement.
Police said they set up a large security perimeter around the factory during the operation, which also involved a large contingent of customs officers.
The units containing the drugs were isolated, and the substance did not contaminate production at the plant, the statement said.
‘The substance in question did not come into contact with any of our products or production equipment used to make our products,’ Nespresso said in an emailed statement.
‘As a police investigation is underway, we cannot share more details. We want to reassure consumers that all our products are safe to consume,’ the maker of single-serve coffee capsules said.
The initial probe indicated that the shipment originated in Brazil, police said, adding that the seized cocaine was determined to be more than 80 percent pure, with an estimated street value of over 50 million Swiss francs (£41million).
‘It appears that all of the drugs were destined for the European market,’ police said.
Swiss food and drinks giant Nestle, which owns Nespresso, sought to reassure customers that ‘all our products are safe to consume.’
‘We have strict quality controls in place for green coffee arriving at our warehouses right up 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.’
Nestle said it could not provide more details because of the ongoing police investigation.
Workers at the plant (pictured on May 5) in Romont, in the western Swiss canton of Fribourg, alerted authorities on Monday to a mysterious white powder found in sacks of coffee beans that had arrived from Brazil, police said
The seizure came as an EU report said on Friday that the the market for cocaine and methamphetamine is on the rise in Europe, driven by record levels of trafficking and sparking violence and health issues.
In 2020, the highest ever amount of cocaine – 214.6 tonnes – was seized in the EU, Norway and Turkey for the fourth consecutive year, according to the report by Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
The EU faces a ‘growing threat from a more diverse and dynamic drug market, which relies on close collaboration between European and international criminal organisations’, the report said.
The new nature of this market has resulted in ‘record levels of drug availability, increased violence and corruption, and worsening health problems,’ said EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel in a statement.
Disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic did not particularly rattle markets, and cocaine trafficking by sea continued at pre-2019 levels.
The market for cocaine – the EU’s second most consumed drug after cannabis – was worth at least 10.5 billion euros (£9 billion) in 2020. An estimated 14 million adults in the EU aged 15 to 65 have tried the drug, which is either snorted as a white powder or smoked in a form widely known as crack cocaine.
Police seized most of the cocaine in Belgium, Netherlands and Spain in 2020, the three countries where the drug is mostly transformed after being produced in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.
Methamphetamine, the world’s most widely used synthetic stimulant drug, plays a ‘relatively minor role in the European drug market,’ the report said, although the latest data suggests a ‘growing threat’.