The seizure – believed to be one of the largest ever in the UK – was part of an investigation led by the joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service’s Organised Crime Partnership (OCP).
Those arrested, all men aged 21-56, were detained by OCP officers yesterday (18 February) at two addresses in North London after taking delivery of 41 pallets into which the cocaine had been loaded.
The drugs – potentially worth £184 million had it been sold on UK streets – had already been removed by Border Force officers at Portsmouth International Port on Sunday 14 February.
The container had arrived on a cargo ship from Colombia the day before, and was masquerading as a legitimate consignment of bananas.
The pallets were delivered to an industrial estate in Tottenham, North London, where OCP officers – supported by armed units from the NCA and the MPS – moved in to arrest the five recipients.
The other five men were arrested at a different industrial estate in Enfield.
All ten remain in custody and three have since been charged with the importation of class A drugs.
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.
“We work closely with domestic and international partners to target those at the top of the chain and ensure that transnational drug networks are met with a global response.
“Border Force is a key partner and were vital in preventing these drugs from being successfully trafficked into the country.”
Detective Superintendent Simon Moring from the Metropolitan Police Service 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.”
The Organised Crime Partnership (formerly the Middle Market Drugs Partnership) has been in operation for 17 years and is comprised of equal numbers of specialist NCA officers and Metropolitan Police detectives.
The team works to stop the flow of drugs to the criminal market in London, target criminals that impact on London, as well as disrupting those that make huge profits from this illegal activity.