Customs authorities in Switzerland have discovered a near 700-year-old antique Japanese samurai sword during a routine vehicle search after it was illegally imported.

The Federal Office for Customs and Border Security said in a statement the Katana sword, which dates back to 1353 and is valued at €650,000, had been discovered in a car with Swiss plates during a routine search near Zurich after it was smuggled into the country.

Several other objects were also found in the car, including an antique book, a contract and the sales invoice.

The driver, who was accompanied by his daughter, had not registered the objects at the Thayngen border crossing from Germany.

Customs authorities launched a criminal investigation and determined that the driver was not the owner of the objects, but rather had picked up the sword in Stuttgart at the request of his employer.

Customs experts found the import of the antique sword should be considered a violation of Switzerland's Cultural Asset Transfer Act, a law which aims to preserve the cultural heritage of mankind and to prevent theft, looting and illegal import and export of cultural property.

The Katana sword in its scabbard

Following the investigation, regional authorities had imposed fines of over 6,000 Swiss francs (€5,800) on the employer for the apparent violation.

The customs authorities meanwhile said they had collected nearly 54,000 Swiss francs (€52,566.50) in VAT from the driver, who faced up to 800,000 francs (€778,876) in further fines.

Antique books were also found