British customs officials in France discovered more than 30 pounds of cocaine in a shipment of protective face masks bound for the United Kingdom, government officials reported on Tuesday. The attempt to smuggle cocaine hidden among boxes of personal protective equipment comes in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Officers with the UK Border Force discovered the cocaine in a Polish-registered van that was attempting to cross into the UK via the Channel Tunnel at Coquelles, France on Tuesday. The shipment of protective face masks and 15 packages containing 14 kilos of cocaine were seized by customs officials. The driver of the van, a 34-year-old Polish national, was arrested and is being held for questioning.
Officials estimated the cocaine’s street value at 1 million British pounds, or about $1.25 million. The face masks, which are in short supply because of the pandemic, are being checked by regulators, according to the UK’s Home Office.
“This seizure shows the lengths drug smugglers will go to,” said Ian Hanson, the Border Force regional director for Coquelles. “It is despicable to think they would try and exploit the current situation in this way to get their dangerous drugs on to the UK’s streets.”