COCAINE with an estimated street value of approximately £50m has been seized by Border Force officers at DP World London Gateway.
The drugs, which had been shipped from Ecuador via Belgium, were concealed within a container carrying a legitimate cargo of tinned tuna.
The seizure of the Class A drug was made on Monday (21 November). The smugglers had stashed approximately 500kgs of cocaine inside eight holdalls within the load of tuna.
The shipment would have had a wholesale value to organised crime of around £16.5 million, but when adulterated and sold at street level could have been worth more than £50 million.
Mark Kennedy, Border Force Assistant Director at DP World London Gateway, said:
“Cocaine is a destructive drug which ruins the lives of users and damages the wider community. This was a substantial find, the biggest we have made here in the port’s short history, and will have significantly disrupted the activity of the criminal parties involved.
“Seizures like this demonstrate how Border Force officers are at the forefront of the fight to keep illegal drugs and other banned substances out of circulation.”
The case has been referred to the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Matthew Rivers, from the NCA’s Border Policing Command, said:
“The intended destination for this consignment was mainland Europe but it’s likely a proportion would still have ended up back in the UK. We are now working closely with our law enforcement colleagues overseas as part of the ongoing investigation.
“Cocaine is a commodity that has direct association to highly aggressive crime. A consignment of this size would undoubtedly have filtered through organised crime groups also associated with firearms, knife crime, exploitation of the young and vulnerable and gang culture. Seizing it has removed the opportunity to make profit from those groups.”
Border Force officers use hi-tech search equipment to combat immigration crime and detect banned and restricted goods that smugglers attempt to bring into the country.
They use an array of search techniques including sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and scanners – as well as visual searches – to find well-hidden stowaways, illegal drugs, firearms and cigarettes which would otherwise end up causing harm to local people, businesses and communities.
Anyone with information about suspected smuggling should contact the hotline on 0800 59 5000.