GENEVA (AP) — Swiss police say an investigation is underway after workers at a Nespresso warehouse in western Switzerland found 500 kilograms (more than 1,100 pounds) of cocaine, a market value of $50 million, as they unloaded coffee beans that had arrived by train.
The Friborg regional police said Thursday evening that they had been alerted on Monday by the company to the discovery of the establishment in the municipality of Romont and immediately set up a “wide security perimeter” around it with a wide agent deployment. Customs and border control officers were called.
Early indications were that the cargo ended up in five containers that arrived by sea from Brazil before being transferred to a train, authorities said.
“The cocaine seized has a degree of purity of 80% and its market value is estimated at more than 50 million francs,” said the police, adding that the stock seemed “intended for the European market”.
On Friday, the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that the availability of cocaine in Europe “is probably at an all-time high”.
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Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is part of the Schengen zone which allows visa-free travel to many European countries.
The monitoring center said it estimated the cocaine retail market in the EU was worth at least 10.5 billion euros ($11.1 billion) in 2020, while warning that the figure was likely to underestimate the true size of the market.
He said the largest quantities of cocaine are seized at Belgian, Dutch and Spanish ports, but increasing amounts are showing up at ports elsewhere “suggesting that trafficking groups are expanding their activities to ports where interdiction measures cocaine may be perceived as less intensive”.
Swiss food and drink giant Nestlé, owner of Nespresso, has sought to reassure customers that “all of our products are safe to consume”.
“We have strict quality controls in place for green coffee arriving at our warehouses through 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.”
Nestlé said it could not provide further details due to the ongoing police investigation.