Police in the German city of Hamburg have destroyed 9 tons of drugs with a street value of more than half a billion euros, a customs spokesman said on Thursday.

The drugs were taken for incineration last week in a covert operation involving several secured transporters and armed escorts, the spokesman said.

The stash comprised around 2.4 tons of cocaine and 6.7 tons of APAAN, a chemical used in the production of methamphetamine, seized during operations in northern Germany in 2017 and 2018.

The drugs had a combined street value of 520 million euros (592 million dollars).

Earlier on Thursday, German customs officials said several tons of cocaine had been seized in Germany in 2018, according to official estimates, but the total so far this year was still below last year's record haul.

The Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BKA) uncovered 8.1 tons of cocaine in total in 2017, with 7 tons seized by customs alone.

The number of large busts remains high in 2018, said Stephan Meyns, a spokesman for the customs investigations office in the northern city of Hamburg. However, when the known amounts of drugs confiscated so far this year are added up, the number remains less than in 2017.

However, police have also been successful in the fight against drugs: At the beginning of November, Hamburg investigators caught five men unloading 1.1 tons of cocaine from a truck.

 Whether the record amount from 2017 will be topped remains unknown.

 However, what is known is that in spite of their efforts, police are still uncovering only a tiny fraction of the drugs being brought illegally into Germany, Meyns said, and it's impossible to know exactly what that fraction is.

 ‘One can't say reliably,’ he said.

An optimistic estimate of 25 per cent would mean about 30 tons of cocaine are being smuggled from South America to Germany every year, he said. Most of it arrives via the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven.

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