COCAINE with a street value of £8.25m has been seized by the UK Border Agency at Tilbury – the biggest single detection of class A drugs at the port in six years.
The smugglers had hidden the drugs inside three pieces of industrial digger machinery shipped by container from Surinam and destined ultimately for Holland.
Sections of the machinery had been hollowed out and then filled with 145 individual packages of the Class A drug, totalling 166kg.
Marc Owen, Director Border Force Central Region, of the UK Border Agency, said: “Drug smuggling is big business and, as this case shows, the criminal gangs behind the trade will go to great lengths to evade detection.
“Our operations are also extremely sophisticated, with highly trained officers using advanced intelligence gathering systems and the latest search equipment.
“The actions of our officers at Tilbury have prevented a massive quantity of cocaine from flooding the European market.”
As well as stashing the drugs inside internal compartments within the machinery the smugglers had taken further steps to conceal the container’s real cargo.
Mr Owen added: “In an attempt to evade detection by our x-ray scanners the drugs had been encased in a thick resin within the machinery. Despite these efforts, the images raised questions and the decision was taken to proceed with an in-depth examination.
“It was a labour intensive job that took more than two days to complete. Specialised cutting equipment was required to dismantle the machinery and then the solid resin had to be chiselled away to reach the drugs.
“The end result more than justified all that hard work.”
UK Border Agency Criminal Investigators have engaged the assistance of international law enforcement colleagues in Europe and elsewhere in order to further the investigation into the organised crime group responsible for the origin and supply of this shipment of Class A drugs.
The drugs have been removed to the Queen’s Warehouse at an undisclosed location.