22 February 2024

Largest class A drugs haul worth £450 million found in banana shipment at port

22 February 2024

The largest ever haul of class A drugs, worth an estimated £450 million, has been seized in a load of bananas at Southampton Port.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force seized 5.7 tonnes of cocaine found in a container carrying the fruit from South America on February 8.

The NCA has said the illicit drugs were heading to the Port of Hamburg in Germany for onward delivery.

A spokesman said: “Inquiries are ongoing with international partners across Europe with a view to identifying the criminal networks involved.

“Based on UK street-level prices the cocaine would likely have had an estimated value in excess of £450 million.”

The previous largest UK seizure was 3.7 tonnes of cocaine, also found at Southampton, in 2022, and 3.2 tonnes were found on board the tug boat MV Hamal in Scotland in 2015.

NCA director Chris Farrimond said: “This record-breaking seizure will represent a huge hit to the international organised crime cartels involved, denying them massive profits. The work of the NCA was crucial to making it happen.

“While the destination for the consignment was continental Europe in this case, I have no doubt that a significant proportion would have ended up back here in the UK, being peddled by UK criminal gangs.

“The NCA is targeting international networks upstream and overseas, disrupting and dismantling them at every step. International law enforcement co-operation is essential to this mission.

“Working closely with UK partners like Border Force, we are determined to do all we can to protect the UK public.”

Minister for legal migration and the border, Tom Pursglove, said: “This Government takes a zero-tolerance approach to the supply of illegal drugs, and I am grateful to dedicated Border Force officers and the NCA for their work to apprehend this record-breaking seizure.

“This seizure sends a clear message to criminals that they will be caught. Our Border Force officers continue to work relentlessly to protect our borders and ensure the safety and security of the public.”

The NCA spokesman said “The domestic cocaine market is dominated by criminal gangs who the NCA believe to be making around £4 billion a year in the UK alone.

Cocaine trafficking is closely linked to serious violence throughout the supply chain, including firearms and knife crime in the UK. The cocaine trade has seen an exponential rise in associated violence in the past few years.”

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