Along the shores of southwestern France, not far from the resort town of Biarritz where leaders of the world's most powerful economies congregated for a meeting of the G-7 a few months back, police are struggling with a unique problem that is frustrating local and federal authorities: Kilos of extremely pure cocaine keep washing up on local beaches.
Al Jazeera and French newswire AFP report that police are having difficulty warding off adventurous 'beach combers', some of whom reportedly traveled for miles to try and snatch a kilo or two of raw blow right off the beach. Police have seized 900 kg of cocaine so far this year, but they believe there's plenty more that they missed, much of which may have fallen into the hands of criminals.
On Monday, police caught a 17-year-old carrying five kilos of washed-up cocaine a Lacanau, a surfing beach near the city of Bordeaux that police had ordered closed because of the cocaine.
The fact that freelancers - whom police have called cocaine treasure hunters - are trying to snatch the cocaine across the police barricade is hardly surprising: Officials claim that the kilos are 83% pure, meaning a single gram could sell for $70 or more.
Police have closed half a dozen other beaches in the area, and have been stopping people found wandering in the closed area or nearby. Federal agencies have also set up "intense" surveillance including patrols by police helicopters from Nantes all the way to the resort town of Biarritz.
French investigators are working with European counterparts, as well as the DEA, to try and figure out the source of the drugs. They noted that similarly packaged kilos of cocaine - bearing the stamps like "Diamante" or "Brillante" just like some of the kilos that have washed up in France - have also appeared on beaches in Florida, though in a much lower volume.
The leading theory is that the cargo was abandoned during a storm.
"There are several hypotheses, but for the moment we think it's likely they were jettisoned because of a mechanical problem or during a storm," one official said.
Police seized a record 140 tonnes of coke across Europe in 2017. According to preliminary data from the last two years, that number is likely to rise.