Coca-Cola plant employees discovered a huge stash of cocaine neatly hidden in a consignment of orange concentrate in southern France. The narcotics consignment is believed to have a street-value exceeding $50 million. The authorities have begun an investigation, but neither Coca-Cola nor any of its employees are suspected of foul play.
Coca-Cola may have completely avoided any association with coca leaves or cocaine for over a century, but that didn’t stop a huge stack of the drug from ending up in one of the company’s processing plants. The huge cache of cocaine, worth approximately $56 million and neatly hidden in a shipment of orange juice concentrate, was found in a factory located in the town of Signes, near the Mediterranean coast. The factory, one of the many Coca-Cola depends on, makes concentrates that are shipped to multiple bottling plants.
Although the consignment of drugs has been discovered on Coca-Cola premises, the company isn’t suspected of being a party in the long chain of drug smuggling. A spokesperson for the company confirmed that the employees immediately notified the police about the sacks containing 370 kg (815 pounds) of cocaine hidden inside a shipment of fruit juice.
Owing to the voluntary disclosure of the sacks of cocaine, the employees of Coca-Cola have been excluded from the investigation. The employees have been ruled out as potential suspects, confirmed Jean-Denis Malgras, the company’s regional president, reported news website Var-Matin.
“The first elements of the investigation have shown that employees are in no way involved.”
The consignment containing the drugs had arrived from South America. It is likely the authorities will now attempt to analyze the journey of the orange juice concentrate in order to check if the drugs started their journey along with the product or if they were planted during the journey.
An investigation into trafficking and importing of illegal drugs has been launched by the Marseille prosecutor’s office, but the authorities haven’t shared much information about the discovery, which they believe to be one of the largest on French soil. The prosecutor of Toulon, Xavier Tarabeux, described the discovery of cocaine in Coca-Cola truck as “a very bad surprise.” He added the street value of the drugs could be about 50 million euros ($56 million).
The orange concentrate consignment had come in from Costa Rica, and authorities strongly believe the regular shipment might have been used as a drug mule by one of the several drug cartels that are active in the region. In fact, the seizure far exceeds the last big drug haul in April of 2015. French customs officials had strategically planned and helped in the apprehension of two men who were trying to smuggle 250 kg of cocaine in a yacht last year. The drugs were meant for the U.K., but a timely intervention prevented the drugs from leaving France.
Coca-Cola regularly used coca leaves in the original Coca-Cola drink way back in the 19th century. The coca leaf concentrate, among many other ingredients, offered a great buzz that helped the drink become popular amongst all the generations.
The sweetened carbonated drink has had multiple ingredients added and taken out throughout the years, but the company has stressed cocaine has never been an added ingredient. Interestingly, the company’s insistence on the added part is partly because the original Coca-Cola formula is believed to have contained traces of cocaine derived from coca leaf extract.
The original formula for Coca-Cola is attributed to U.S. pharmacist John Pemberton. He created the original recipe for the world’s most popular drink in 1886. Pemberton’s formula, which was later christened Coca-Cola, wasn’t always a recreational drink that’s widely consumed today. It was originally intended as patent medicine. The ingredients made the drink a stimulant, and it was even classified as such until the early 20th century.
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