BRITAIN’S biggest ever drugs smuggling ring has been busted after a series of nationwide dawn raids by police.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said 13 men, aged between 24 and 59, were held yesterday in London, Manchester, Stockport, St Helens, Warrington, Bolton, Dewsbury and Leeds.
They are suspected of being members of an international crime gang thought to have smuggled billions of pounds worth of drugs into the UK.
The arrests came after investigators intercepted 55st 4lb of cocaine, 14st 7lb of heroin and 330st 10lb of cannabis and hashish, with a total street value of more than £38million, in three consignments in September last year.
Subsequent inquiries led them to believe that 50 tons of drugs were imported between February 2017 and October 2018. The drugs were hidden in lorries carrying vegetables and juice from the Netherlands.
Last night Jayne Lloyd, the NCA’s 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 tons 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 supply route.’
As part of the same investigation, four men and two women from the Netherlands were arrested in April and are awaiting extradition to the UK.
Yesterday’s raids are also linked to an earlier NCA operation where 13 people were jailed after the seizure of more than 15st 10lb of heroin in 2015.