Record seizure of heroin intercepted at UK port
The National Crime Agency (NCA) and UK Border Force have seized heroin with a street value in excess of £120 million in a container ship docking at Felixstowe.
It is the largest ever seizure of the class A drug in the UK.
Nearly 1.3 tonnes was discovered on the ship MV Gibraltar after it docked at the Suffolk port on August 30.
It is estimated that the record haul is worth around £27 million wholesale and in excess of £120 million at street level.
The NCA had received intelligence that the heroin would be on the vessel when it docked in the UK en route to Antwerp in Belgium.
Officers found 1,297kg of the substance concealed among a load of towels and bathrobes. The 1kg blocks of heroin were stitched inside some of the towels and took officers nearly six hours – working in the early hours of Saturday morning – to recover.
After the drugs were removed, the container was returned to the vessel, which continued on to Antwerp and docked in the Belgian port on September 1.
Dutch and Belgian law enforcement agencies followed the container to a warehouse in Rotterdam, the Netherlands where four people who were in the process of unloading the consignment were arrested.
It is the second significant heroin haul at Felixstowe within a month – 398kg was found on a vessel at the port on August 2.
NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Matt Horne said the record seizure will have denied organised crime tens of millions of pounds in profits.
“[It] is the result of a targeted, intelligence-led investigation, carried out by the NCA with international and UK partners,” Mr Horne said.
“The size of this and other recent shipments demonstrate the scale of the threat we face. We can be certain that some of these drugs would eventually have been sold in the UK, fuelling high levels of violence and exploitation including what we see in county lines offending nationwide.
“The heroin trade also feeds addictions that put users’ lives at risk, while giving rise to crime such as theft which make people feel unsafe in their homes and communities.
“NCA officers on the front line lead the fight against the serious and organised criminals who chase profits while dominating and intimidating communities. However, reducing UK demand for illegal commodities such as heroin requires a systematic response across multiple sectors, including health and social care, prisons and education.”
Jenny Sharp, Border Force Assistant Director at Felixstowe, added: “This is a huge seizure – there is no other word for it given the quantities involved – which has kept dangerous drugs off the streets of the UK and mainland Europe. It speaks well of the effective work we do with our law enforcement partners at home and abroad and I’m extremely proud of all the officers involved.”