Naval and customs officers in Uruguay seized a staggering six tons of cocaine this week, with authorities calling it the country’s biggest bust ever.
The National Armada said in a press release that on Dec. 26 officers at the Montevideo port were checking four shipping containers with soy flour destined for Lome, the capital of Togo in West Africa.
Authorities said a scanner flagged “abnormalities” in the shipment, which turned out to be a total of 4,003 bricks of cocaine – about 4.4 tons of the drug. One container contained 3,089 bricks of cocaine, each weighing about 2.4 pounds.
Officials estimated the value of the drug shipment at $1 billion in the European market.
According to news reports, the export firm had not transported much soy flour in the past, and the flour isn’t widely consumed in Africa, raising suspicions that led to a careful search of the containers.
Nearly a third of the cocaine consumed in Europe is smuggled there via Africa, local media reported.
Uruguay customs director Jaime Borgiani said it was not known exactly where the cocaine originated from, but it was loaded on to trucks Tuesday at a ranch about 180 miles from Montevideo.
The interior ministry said on Twitter that local police raided the ranch and found more cocaine there.
Uruguay’s El Pais reported that at least 1.5 tons of the drug were seized. The ranch’s owner and son were arrested, along with two workers.
“The important thing is to show the world and drug traffickers that you don’t mess around with Uruguayan customs,” Borgiani said, according to the BBC. “We’ve taken the necessary steps to rid the country of this scourge.”
The previous record bust in Uruguay was 3 tons of cocaine found in a container – also destined for Africa – at Montevideo’s port in November.