Cocaine worth £184m found hidden in banana shipment from Colombia
Cocaine with a street value of £184 million has been seized in a joint National Crime Agency (NCA) and police operation after it was found hidden in a consignment of bananas imported from Colombia.
The NCA said the “massive” seizure of approximately 2.3 tonnes of the Class A drug was believed to be one of the largest ever in the UK.
Ten men, aged between aged 21 and 56, were arrested following armed raids in North London yesterday (February 18) by the joint NCA and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Organised Crime Partnership (OCP).
The drugs – which the NCA said were potentially worth £184 million had they been sold on UK streets – had already been removed by Border Force officers at Portsmouth International Port on Sunday (February 14).
The container had arrived on a cargo ship from Colombia the day before with the cocaine packages hidden in boxes of bananas.
Five of the men were arrested by OCP officers – supported by armed units from the NCA and the MPS – at an industrial estate in Tottenham, North London, where the 41 pallets into which the cocaine had been loaded were delivered.
The other five men were arrested at a different industrial estate in Enfield.
All ten remain in custody and three have since been charged with the importation of Class A drugs.
MPS Detective Superintendent Simon Moring said: “This operation is a great example of partnership working between the Met, NCA and Border Force, which resulted in one of the UK’s biggest ever seizures of cocaine – around 2.3 tonnes.
“This significant seizure means that these dangerous drugs cannot reach the streets of London and beyond, where they have the potential to cause great harm to people and communities.
“Whilst these operations are complex and resource intensive, they are vital to disrupt organised criminal networks and to ensure we keep our communities safe.”
He added: “We know there is an inextricable link between drugs and violence – that is why tackling the importation and supply of drugs is a crucial part of our work to reduce violent crime in London.”
John Coles, head of Specialist Operations at the NCA, said: “The numbers here speak for themselves; this is a massive seizure which has denied organised criminals hundreds of millions in profits, and is the result of a targeted investigation conducted jointly by the NCA and Met Police.
“The NCA is focused on disrupting the organised crime groups posing the most significant risk to the UK, which includes those involved in Class A drug supply.
“Illegal drugs are a corrosive threat and those who deal in cocaine are often violent and exploitative. Cocaine supply is directly linked to the use of firearms, knife crime and the exploitation of young and vulnerable people.”
He added: “We work closely with domestic and international partners to target those at the top of the chain and ensure that transnational drug networks are met with a global response.
“Border Force is a key partner and were vital in preventing these drugs from being successfully trafficked into the country.”
The OCP (formerly the Middle Market Drugs Partnership) has been in operation for 17 years and comprises equal numbers of specialist NCA officers and MPS detectives.
The NCA said the team works to stop the flow of drugs to the criminal market in London, target criminals that impact on London, as well as disrupting those that make huge profits from this illegal activity.