German police seize cocaine worth billions in largest-ever bust

German investigators have seized 35.5 tonnes of cocaine with a street value of around 2.6 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in the country’s biggest ever cocaine busts, police and prosecutors said Monday.

Around 24.5 tonnes were seized in Hamburg, a further eight tonnes in the Dutch port of Rotterdam, and three tonnes in Guayaquil in Ecuador, German authorities said.

The drugs were found in nine shipping containers stashed between crates of fruit and other legal goods between April and September last year, the authorities added.

German investigators were alerted to the illegal trade by a tip-off from Colombian authorities.

Working with Europol in an operation known as “OP Plexus”, they identified eight main suspects: two Germans, two Turks, and others from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Morocco, and Ukraine.

Seven of the suspects were arrested during raids across Germany in late May and early June this year, the investigators said.

Together with other as yet unidentified accomplices thought to be based in Turkey, they are accused of setting up dozens of fake companies to smuggle the cocaine from South America.

Police seized several mobile phones and laptops as well as gold bars, 23,300 euros in cash and a Porsche car worth around 250,000 euros.

Tino Ingelmann, head of the customs investigation authorities in the western city of Duesseldorf, said the amount of cocaine seized in Germany was growing every year.

A total of around 43 tonnes was intercepted in 2023.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner praised the work of the authorities.

“Every criminal must know that we will defend the security of our citizens and our businesses. We will defend it resolutely and vigorously,” he said.