British border agents have found 418 kilogrammes of cocaine worth GBP 33 million in a load of onion rings in a lorry attempting to cross the channel into the United Kingdom from France.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said in a statement obtained by Newsflash that a Polish lorry driver named as Piotr Perzenowski, 30, had been arrested and charged with smuggling a Class A drug.
The NCA said that officers from the Border Force – a law enforcement branch of the UK’s Home Office – had made the discovery at the UK inbound zone in Coquelles, which is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department near Calais in northern France.
They discovered 418 kilogrammes (922 lbs) of cocaine worth GBP 33 million in the back of the lorry and hidden under frozen onion rings.
Perzenowski, whom the NCA said was from the Polish region of Mazowieckie, also known as the Masovian Voivodeship, of which the main city is Warsaw, “appeared at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court” on Saturday morning (13th November) and was “remanded to appear at Canterbury Crown Court on 13 December”, according to the NCA.
Mark Howes, an NCA Branch Commander, said that the quantity of drugs removed from circulation as a result of the seizure was “really significant”.
He added that the haul would “deprive the organised crime group responsible for them of profit which would have fuelled more offending.”
The discovery of the onions used to smuggle drugs and shipment from France is particularly significant because of the fact that until recently British regarded the stereotype Frenchman is wearing a beret and riding a cycle with the onions hanging from the handlebars.
It is a leftover from when Frenchman on cycles would travel to the UK from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s mostly from Brittany in northern France to sell their wares. The region was then and now famous for its pink onions which were not only sweeter than average onions but also had a longer shelf life – and they were extremely popular with the Brits.
They were nicknamed “Onion Johnnies” and they even have their own museum in Roscoff in Brittany where it reveals that the practice of heading straight to the UK to sell their onions reportedly began in 1828, when a French farmer named Henri Ollivier decided it was just as easy to head to the UK as it was to go to Paris, and the project was such a success, he repeated it year after year with the numbers growing of farmers choosing to sell their onions directly in the UK.
Onions were shipped over together with the farmers, who then travel round the local area selling their onions for the next five months before heading back home with their profits.