Three men have been arrested as part of an investigation into an organised crime group manufacturing specialist hiding places for drugs in industrial machinery.
It follows a series of raids launched across southeast England on Tuesday morning as part of an operation linked to the discovery of 125kg of cocaine destined for Sydney, Australia.
Officers found the drugs inside a specially constructed concealed compartment built into a diesel generator, which was being shipped to Australia via airfreight consignment.
The men arrested include a 29-year-old in Wickford, Essex, a 43-year-old in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, and a 42-year-old in Romford, Essex.
All three are being held on suspicion of conspiracy to export a controlled drug and are being questioned by National Crime Agency officers.
Officers also searched industrial facilities in Rayleigh, Essex, South Ockenden and Feltham in west London.
They found another generator with a secret concealed compartment at the South Ockenden address, as well as cannabis plants, a number of stolen vehicles and high-value jewellery.
NCA branch commander Lydia Bloomfield said: “Our investigation has targeted a network we suspect was providing a rare and highly sophisticated service to other organised crime groups.
“A shipment of this quantity of cocaine from the UK to Australia is unusual, but demonstrates the global scale of the class A drugs trade – which causes violence and intimidation throughout its supply chain.
“This operation has been planned and carried out alongside our partners including Border Force and New South Wales Police. We work closely with partners around the world to combat the highest risk organised crime threats.”
At the same time as the raids in the UK, New South Wales Police officers in Australia raided a property in Cawdor. During the course of the raid, two vehicles – a Mercedes van and Pantech truck – left the property, the Australian cops said.
“It’s alleged the driver of the truck rammed several police cars before both vehicles were stopped following a short pursuit,” New South Wales Police stated.
Three men in Australia have been arrested and charged with various offences including conspiracy to import cocaine. They have been refused bail and are expected to appear in court on Wednesday.
Australia’s organised crime squad commander, Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow, said: “This was clearly a highly coordinated syndicate who have gone to extreme efforts both here and in Europe to ensure their shipment of drugs arrived uninhibited.
“Our intelligence sharing capabilities both here and overseas has resulted in the complete devastation of this criminal enterprise – and the prospect of a lengthy prison term for each of those involved.”
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