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German investigators seize cocaine worth 2.6 billion euros, calling it their biggest find ever

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BERLIN (AP) — German investigators announced Monday that they seized cocaine worth 2.6 billion euros ($2.78 billion) from several container ships and arrested seven people in what they called the biggest ever cocaine find in the country.

Prosecutors in the western city of Duesseldorf said they confiscated the 35.5 metric tons (39 U.S. tons) of cocaine last year following a tip from Colombian authorities. They added they found 25 tons of cocaine in the port of the northern city of Hamburg, another 8 tons in the Dutch port of Rotterdam and almost 3 tons in Colombia. The drugs were hidden among vegetables and fruit.

The drug seizures had not previously been announced.

The suspects — aged between 30 and 54 — were arrested in recent weeks and are believed to have been behind the smuggling. The seven include German, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Moroccan, Turkish and Ukrainian nationals, the prosecutors said in a statement. Their identities were not given in line with German privacy rules.

A businessman from the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia set up 100 letterbox companies to make the transports appear legal, they said.

“Specifically, the suspects are accused of organizing the transport of 10 sea containers with large quantities of cocaine from Latin America to Europe in the period from April to September 2023 with other as yet unknown accomplices allegedly residing in Turkey via front companies set up for this purpose,” a written statement by prosecutors said.

The state justice minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Benjamin Limbach, praised the huge cocaine seizure at a news conference in Duesseldorf.

“This is a blow to international organized criminality,” Limbach said. “It’s a precise punch in the jaw that hurts the drug lords.”

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