Customs officer on record cocaine find: “there was a bit of luck involved”.

Hamburg Customs has seized 4.5 tons of cocaine – a record find. Press officer Oliver Bachmann explains what happens to the coke.

The man with the coke is here: customs were able to seize 4.5 tons of cocaine in Hamburg Photo: dpa

site: Mr. Bachmann, Hamburg Customs has announced that it recently seized four and a half tons of cocaine on a cargo ship in the Port of Hamburg. Street value: around one billion euros. How did the find come about?

Oliver Bachmann: Who was behind the smuggling is still being investigated by our customs investigation office and the Hamburg public prosecutor’s office. We have determined the rough route, which led us to take a closer look at the ship as part of the risk analysis.

Why was this ship in particular taken a closer look at?

We look at the routes and the ships, but also how frequently certain ports are called at. This cargo ship was supposed to come to us from Montevideo and was on its way to Antwerp. Some of the containers were to be unloaded in Hamburg. This made the whole thing more "watchable". In the search for narcotics, transports from South America are given special attention. Naturally, however, we are always on the lookout for any flow of goods.

How did the seizure proceed?

As soon as the ship docked, we were authorized to go on board – we did this together with a corresponding control unit. The colleagues checked several containers and found 211 sports bags with cocaine in one.

How often can such large drug search operations be carried out?

Every now and then, in this case there was a bit of luck involved. Because every now and then we have specific tips that allow even more in-depth research in advance. Sometimes we are deliberately misled, but sometimes we are completely right with our risk analyses.

50, is press officer at the main customs office in Hamburg. The official has worked for customs for 25 years.

That sounds like weighing things up – but you could also miss out on a few things.

In some cases, unfortunately, that is to be feared.

Is Hamburg a hub of the European drug trade?

Like any other European port, the Port of Hamburg is used to handle such goods – both as a transit port and for onward trade in Germany.

In December, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction warned of increasing availability of cocaine in Europe. Are you observing this as well?

Unfortunately, yes.

Is that why you are now cracking down more?

No more or less than before. Not much has changed for us. A case like this shows that we are right in our risk analysis.

Now you’re sitting on four and a half tons of coke – the largest single volume of cocaine ever seized in Germany. Do you know what you’re going to do with it?

What are you supposed to do with it? In consultation with the public prosecutor’s office, the narcotics were seized so that no one would have access to them. As a first resort, the cocaine was then destroyed by incineration, which is the easiest way.

Where in Germany can four and a half tons of cocaine be incinerated?

There are many ways to do this in external facilities, i.e. waste incineration plants. The destruction took place somewhere in northern Germany. Where that was exactly, I won’t say. But there are many waste incineration plants that can do that.

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