One of the biggest cocaine seizures in recent years has been made in Northern Ireland.
The 20-kilo haul, worth an estimated £1.6 million, was discovered hidden inside an empty fuel tank being transported in a van which had just arrived into Belfast port on a ferry from Birkenhead on Monday February 22.
The vehicle’s driver, a 39-year-old man from Wolverhampton, has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to supply controlled drugs and is now being questioned by National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators.
It is part of an NCA investigation into drug supply.
NCA branch commander Adam Warnock said: “This was a significant seizure of cocaine, one of the biggest to be made by law enforcement in Northern Ireland in recent years.
“The loss of the profit that would have been made from it will be felt by the criminal groups involved in drug supply in the province.”
Officers using special equipment had to be brought in to recover the drugs, in an operation which took several hours and also involved Belfast Harbour Police, the Border Force and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Following the seizure a second man, aged 46, was arrested on suspicion of the same offences in Wolverhampton as part of the investigation.
Mr Warnock added: “Those groups are also involved in exploitation and violence in our communities, so taking away these drugs will prevent them from reinvesting in further criminal activity.
“Working with our partners across law enforcement we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle organised crime networks and protect the public.”
Detective Chief Superintendent John McVea, from the PSNI, said he was delighted with the successful interception.
He said: “More importantly, we are pleased with the positive impact this will have for individuals and communities within Northern Ireland in terms of disrupting the distribution and supply of class A drugs and bringing those harmful offenders to justice.
“Anything we can do to support a collective effort across a range of partners, as was seen in yesterday’s operation, is always welcomed, as well as the fact that cocaine with an estimated street value of over £1.6 million has been taken out of the control of criminals.”