Cocaine haul worth up to £184 million found in banana shipment

19 February 2021, 17:56

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A cocaine haul worth up to £184 million has been seized after it was imported from Colombia in a shipment of bananas.

The seizure of around 2.3 tonnes of the Class A drug is believed to be one of the largest ever in the UK, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

Police arrested ten men, aged between 21 and 56, during the armed raid at an industrial estate in Tottenham, north London, on Thursday.

The drug haul was found in a 41-pallet consignment of bananas imported from the South American country.

Dramatic footage caught on bodycams shows firearms officers - wearing helmets and gas masks - smashing down the door before raiding the building, which contained stacked boxes of bananas.

However, Border Force officers at Portsmouth International Port had already removed the cocaine. They found the drugs on Sunday after the consignment arrived on a cargo ship from Colombia the previous day.

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Cocaine worth up to £184m was seized after being imported from Colombia in a shipment of bananas
Cocaine worth up to £184m was seized after being imported from Colombia in a shipment of bananas. Picture: PA

The NCA, which carried out the investigation with the Metropolitan Police under the Organised Crime Partnership, said the drugs could have had a street value of up to £184 million.

The Met's 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.

"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."

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This is the dramatic moment officers arrested five men after they took delivery of the pallets
This is the dramatic moment officers arrested five men after they took delivery of the pallets. Picture: PA

Five men were held after taking delivery of the pallets at the Tottenham industrial estate, while another five were arrested at a different industrial estate in Enfield.

Three of them have been charged with the importation of Class A drugs, while the other seven remain in police custody.

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."