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Chilean surprise

Swiss defence company was sent 38kg of cocaine

Thirty-eight kilograms of cocaine with a street value estimated at CHF15 million ($15.5 million) was found in a container sent from Chile to Swiss defence firm RUAG. The surprise package was hidden in a shipment of tanks that were sent last year for overhaul at the Thun-based company.

The discovery of drugs last September was only revealed in the 2015 annual report of Bern’s  cantonal justice authorities, and the Swiss media didn’t pick up on the story until Friday. 

The Chilean state-owned weapons manufacturer FAMAE had sent the tanks to RUAG for an overhaul of their engines and transmission systems in 2015. The drugs were stashed in two packages and had a purity of 80%, according to the Bern authorities. 

The annual report said the containers carrying the tanks and the hidden drugs had reached Switzerland from the Chilean port of Valparaiso via Peru, through the Panama Canal, arriving in Europe at the port of Rotterdam from where it was sent to Basel. 

Media reports in Chile claim that an external company was charged with preparing the shipment of tanks and delivering them to the Valparaiso port from the town of Talagante near the Chilean capital Santiago. FAMAE launched an investigation into the company to check if it met the required security standards for transporting military equipment. 

The Bern public prosecutor Christof Scheurer, told Swiss News Agency ATS on Friday that there was no legal obligation for the authorities to communicate the presence of the drugs, as it was not a case of significant public interest. An investigation was launched to locate the source of the drugs but the case was closed in June 2016 after no progress was made. Scheurer also added that no RUAG employee was suspected given that the drugs were left unattended for two weeks in the container.

The investigation could be re-opened if new evidence comes to light, especially at the Chilean end.

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