Italian police said Wednesday they found gold ingots worth 4.5 million euros ($5.8 million) hidden in a car headed to Switzerland on what appeared "an ordinary Easter day out with the family".
Police stopped the car on a routine check on Easter Sunday but became suspicious as the man driving it, his wife and three children became increasingly nervous and they found two hidden compartments under the seats.
"It looked like an ordinary Easter day out with the family," the financial police said in a statement, adding that the couple had given "evasive answers" and were therefore taken to a police station for a full-scale search.
A total of 12 ingots were found wrapped in old newspapers and tied together with cellotape, according to video images released by the financial police in Ponte Chiasso in northern Italy, close to Lugano in southern Switzerland.
The 53-year-old driver of the car, an Italian man resident in Switzerland, has been charged with money laundering and the gold has been confiscated.
An investigation has been launched into where it could have come from.
The man, a legal representative of a Swiss company, "did not provide an explanation or demonstrate the legitimate provenance of the large quantity of precious metal," the police said, without giving further details.
The phenomenon of gold smuggling across the Alps from Italy into Switzerland has increased sharply in recent months as Italian authorities have multiplied investigations against tax evasion and money laundering.