Workers at a Nespresso factory in western Switzerland discovered 500 kilogrammes (almost 1,100 pounds) of cocaine with a street value of $50 million as they unloaded coffee beans that had come by train, says Swiss police.
Fribourg regional police said late Thursday that they were notified of the discovery at the facility in the town of Romont by the company on Monday and promptly set up a "broad security perimetre" around it with a big deployment of officers. Agents from Customs and Border Protection were summoned, reports The Associated Press.
Early indications were that the shipment turned up in five containers that had arrived by sea from Brazil before being transferred onto a train, authorities said.
"The cocaine seized has an 80% degree of purity and its market value is estimated at more than 50 million francs," the police said, adding that the stash appeared "destined for the European market."
On Friday, the European Union's law enforcement agency Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that cocaine availability in Europe "is probably at an all-time high."
Switzerland is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen zone that allows for visa-free travel among many European countries.
The monitoring centre believes that the EU cocaine retail market was worth at least 10.5 billion euros ($11.1 billion) in 2020, but warns that this number is likely to underestimate the total market size.
The most cocaine is confiscated in Belgian, Dutch, and Spanish ports, but rising amounts are being found in other ports, "suggesting that trafficking groups are expanding their operations to ports where cocaine interdiction procedures may be seen as less intensive," according to the report.
Nespresso is a division of Vevey, Switzerland-based food giant Nestle, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AP.