German and Belgian authorities have seized 23 tonnes of cocaine in a record haul of the drug in Europe, German customs said on Wednesday.

“The enormous amount of cocaine would have brought in several billion euros in street sales,” the customs office said.

German officers discovered 16 tonnes of cocaine hidden in containers from Paraguay at the port of Hamburg on 12 February.

Joint investigations with Dutch officers led authorities to swoop on another 7.2 tonnes of cocaine at the port of Antwerp in Belgium.

Dutch police said they arrested a 28-year-old man early on Wednesday in the Netherlands in connection with both hauls. Investigators also searched two premises – one in Rotterdam and another in a nearby village.

Dutch police said the illicit cargo was all bound for the same destination in the Netherlands.

“The seized mega shipments to the Netherlands together form an absolute record. Never before has so much cocaine been intercepted at once,” a spokesperson said.

Customs officers at the busy port in Hamburg had decided to take a closer look at the Paraguayan containers after noticing “clear irregularities” with its contents – tin cans that were meant to be filled with putty.

“Beyond a layer of genuine goods packed just behind the container door, numerous tin cans were in fact filled with other goods,” said customs.

Investigators ordered the containers unloaded, and found the cocaine stash in more than 1,700 cans.

“This is the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in Europe and one of the largest single seizures worldwide,” German customs said, referring to the Hamburg haul.

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In all, 102 tonnes of cocaine headed for Europe continent were intercepted last year by an international law enforcement project implemented by the UN.



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