France’s finance ministry is auctioning off customs contraband in an “extraordinary sale” featuring platinum bars seized en route to the UK, designer handbags, valuable historic coins, several collections of uncut diamonds and 2,016 bottles of vodka.
The 350 lots – valued collectively at about €1m – also include a Volkswagen Golf stopped at France’s border with Spain and found to contain 480kg of cannabis resin.
More than 1,200 potential buyers have signed up to take part in the auction, which will be held in the finance ministry at Bercy in Paris.
The 14 platinum bars weighing 1kg each and stamped “Crédit Suisse” were reportedly discovered by French customs officials in the baggage of two people travelling to the UK who claimed they were working for a Paris business. Each ingot is for sale at a starting price of €22,000.
Seized items detailed in the catalogue also include gold sovereigns bearing the heads of the British monarchs Elizabeth II, Victoria, Edward VII and George V, as well as several gold “Napoléons”.
Among the luxury goods up for auction are Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Fendi and Valentino handbags and several expensive watches including a white gold Rolex set with 40 rubies – catalogue estimate €15,000 – as well as perfumes and a pair of Bottega Veneta shoes seized at Nice airport. The uncut diamonds, being sold in several lots – one of which is listed as totalling 197.95 carats – were seized at Paris airports.
Certain items will be sold only to professional buyers for security or legal reasons, including three and a half pallets of Grey Goose vodka bottles, listed with a starting price of €10,000.
The finance ministry said the sale reflected “the diversity of objects seized by customs officers”.
“The customs service battles daily against all illegal traffic that threatens our territory and our society in order to protect citizens and the environment,” it added.