Nineteen Brits suspected to be members of an international organised crime gang that imported over 50 tonnes of drugs worth billions into the UK have been arrested.
The “industrial-scale operation” was uncovered by the National Crime Agency after three lorries were intercepted in September 2018, containing 351 kilos of cocaine, 92 kilos of heroin, 250 kilos of cannabis and 1,850 kilos of hemp, a strain of cannabis often refined into oil or textiles – with a total street value exceeding £38 million.
Thirteen men – aged between 24 and 59 – were detained after a series of dawn raids today (TUES) in London, Manchester, Stockport, St Helens, Warrington, Bolton, Dewsbury and Leeds.
A further four men and two women were also arrested by Dutch police in the Netherlands in April this year, and are currently awaiting extradition to the UK.
They are believed to be part of the UK arm of a major organised crime group that used Dutch and British front companies to import heroin, cocaine and cannabis – stashed in lorry loads of vegetables and juice – through British ports.
Officers believe the group had smuggled drugs into the country several times between February 2017 and October 2018.
Jayne Lloyd, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, said: “The NCA targets organised crime groups causing the greatest harm to the UK.
“Stopping criminals who don’t care about the damage they are causing in communities, and the children being exploited by County Lines drug dealing, is an absolute priority.
“We suspect these men were involved in an industrial-scale operation – the biggest ever uncovered in the UK – bringing in tonnes of deadly drugs that were distributed to crime groups throughout the country.
“By working closely with partners here and overseas, in particular the Dutch National Police, we believe we have dismantled a well-established drug supply route.”
The investigation was supported by Europol, Eurojust, Police of Finland National Bureau of Investigation, Border Force, HMRC and numerous police forces.