Dutch authorities seized over eight tonnes of cocaine discovered in a container ship from Ecuador, the nation’s largest ever seizure of the drug, prosecutors said Thursday.
The drugs, valued at an estimated 600 million euros ($661 million), were concealed in a container carrying bananas that had arrived in Rotterdam via Panama, prosecutors said.
“On July 13, customs carried out the largest ever drug seizure in the port of Rotterdam,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
“A total of 8,064 one-kilo packets of cocaine were extracted from twelve pallets of bananas,” the statement added.
The seizure had not been announced previously while investigations continued. The impounded drugs have now been destroyed, according to prosecutors.
“Once again we have succeeded… in dealing a serious blow to the port’s drug traffickers,” Rotterdam Customs Director Peter van Buijtenen said, calling the seizure “enormous”.
Dutch customs seized over 29,702 kilos of drugs in the first half of 2023, more than in the same period last year (22,009 kilos), according to figures released last month.
More than half of the shipments discovered contained less than 100 kilos of drugs, the government said at the time.
The Netherlands neighbouring Belgium and Spain are the top three European nations for illegal cocaine imports, most of it from Panama, Colombia and Ecuador.
A record 110 tonnes of cocaine were seized by Belgian authorities last year in the port of Antwerp.
The announcement of the record Dutch seizure came a day after the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, a leading presidential candidate in Ecuador and an anti-corruption crusader.
Last week Villavicencio had reported threats against him and his campaign team, allegedly made by the leader of a drug-trafficking gang currently in prison.