Customs confiscated a record 4.5 metric tons (5 short tons) of cocaine in a shipping container in Hamburg, northern Germany, with a street value of nearly €1 billion ($1.1 billion), it announced on Friday.

The drugs were discovered two weeks ago during a routine check, resulting in the largest cocaine shipment ever seized in Germany.

More than 4,200 packages in 211 sports bags were discovered in a freight container which claimed to be full of soybeans. The shipment was being transported from Montevideo in Uruguay, via Hamburg, to Antwerp, Belgium.

“This enormous amount represents the largest individual seizure of cocaine in Germany,” the Hamburg Customs agency said in a statement.

“Assuming that this likely high-purity cocaine can be cut to triple the amount for street sale, the 4.5 tons has a street value of approximately €1 billion.”

The cocaine has already been destroyed under strict secrecy and extensive security measures.

Watch video 01:27

European Drug Report 2019: Illegal drug use up in the EU

Gateway to the world

The port is Germany’s largest and Europe’s third busiest. It is often referred to as the “gateway to the world” as the country’s trade and travel has relied heavily on it throughout its history.

The EU Drug Markets Report found that Rotterdam was the main point of entry for drug smugglers, but that Hamburg was handling increasing traffic.

In recent years cocaine shipments of up to one ton have been detected on numerous occasions but Friday’s announcement was an unprecedented amount.

Just last year police Hamburg authorities destroyed drugs with a combined street value of €520 million ($592 million).

Germany has become notorious for drug usage. In March this year it topped a Europe-wide study for crystal meth and amphetamine use following close examination of the country’s wastewater.

jsi/aw (AFP, dpa)

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