‘White Christmas’ as cops uncover 10 tonnes of cocaine in £650m drug bust

Customs have seized 10 tonnes of cocaine worth more than €750m (£654m) as gangs in Europe prepare for the festive period.

The drug bust was part of a so-called "white Christmas" which will see authorities in Belgium and the Netherlands prepare to capture record levels of cocaine as the substance is smuggled in through the Belgian city of Antwerp, the Times reported.

"White Christmas, that is the period in which the white powder falls en masse from the sky," Kristian Vanderwaeren, the director-general of Belgium’s customs and excise department, told VRT news.

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"I expect spectacular catches from my people in the coming weeks."

And this enormous batch of cocaine isn't the first of the year.

A week ago, authorities found 3.9 tonnes of cocaine hidden in a shipment of bananas from Ecuador, and just last Wednesday they found another 4.8 tonnes in a second load of bananas, this time from Panama.

A third shipment of bananas being sent to the Netherlands via Antwerp was found to be hiding a further 1.3 tonnes.

This year's total cocaine seizures are expected to eclipse last year's record of 90 tonnes, worth around €6bn (£4.93bn).

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Law enforcement have put on valiant efforts to curtail the flow of drugs, including the arrest in November of six members of a "super-cartel" who reportedly ran one-third of Europe's cocaine trade from Dubai.

Despite this, however, cocaine is still managing to get into Europe, with production reportedly ramping up in South America to meet the ever-increasing demand.

Vanderwaeren said smugglers are using more and more creative ways to get their bounty across the border, making it harder for police to find the contraband.

“In the past, people mainly used sports bags, which happens less,” he said. We are seeing more and more that cocaine is being hidden in the structure of shipping containers. That makes it more difficult for us to discover and dismantle."

Last month, Belgian authorities even said that cocaine was being seized at such a rate that the incinerators they were using to destroy it weren't able to keep up.

The European cocaine trade is worth a reported €130bn (£106bn) a year, according to research by the United Nations figures.

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