An international multi-agency operation has led to 11 arrests, the seizure of 1.5 tonnes of cocaine and the shutdown of an industrial-sized drug production lab.
Acting on intelligence from the National Crime Agency, officers from the Spanish National Police (SNP) searched a shipping container from Colombia which arrived in the Port of Valencia on November 30.
The container appeared to be loaded with sacks of charcoal on wooden pallets but forensic examination found that the pallets were made of compressed cocaine powder made to look like wood, and some of the sacks contained cocaine disguised as charcoal.
Coordinated strikes on December 1 led to six men from Liverpool being arrested in the UK and Dubai. NCA officers arrested a 44-year-old at Liverpool Airport, along with a 54-year-old and a 50-year-old in the rooftop car park of the Belle Vale Shopping Centre. Merseyside Police detained a 46-year-old at an address in Knowsley Village. The Dubai Police Anti-Narcotic Unit arrested a 39-year-old and a 38-year-old at a luxury apartment.
Another five men – two Colombians, two Peruvians and a Spaniard – were detained on December 3 by the SNP at a company in an industrial unit in Chiva following the delivery of a dummy consignment of charcoal.
Greg McKenna, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, said: “We believe the company was a front for an industrial-sized lab where cocaine was extracted from pallets and charcoal, processed and repackaged for onward distribution across Europe.
“This seizure of cocaine, the shutting down of the lab and the eleven arrests will have disrupted criminal activity across the whole of Europe.”
The four men arrested in Liverpool have been released on bail pending further enquiries, while the two men in Dubai are still remanded in custody. The five men in Spain are also in custody.