Morning jolt? Swiss find cocaine stash amid coffee bean bags

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GENEVA — Swiss police say an investigation is underway after workers at a Nespresso factory in western Switzerland found 500 kilograms (over 1,100 pounds) of cocaine, with a street value of $50 million, as they unloaded coffee beans that had arrived by train.

Regional police in Fribourg said late Thursday they were alerted Monday by the company to the discovery at the facility in the town of Romont and immediately set up a “broad security perimeter” around it with a large deployment of officers. Customs and border control agents were called in.

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 Center 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 center said it estimates the EU cocaine retail market was worth at least 10.5 billion euros ($11.1 billion) in 2020, while cautioning that the figure was likely to underestimate the true size of the market.

It said the largest quantities of cocaine are seized in Belgian, Dutch and Spanish ports, but increasing amounts are turning up at ports elsewhere “suggesting that trafficking groups are extending their activities to ports where cocaine interdiction measures may be perceived as less intensive.”

Nespresso is a division of Vevey, Switzerland-based food giant Nestle, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

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