Southampton cocaine: 'Record-breaking' amount of class A drugs found hidden within a cargo of bananas

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A 'record-breaking' amount of cocaine, worth £450m, has been found hidden within a cargo of bananas at Southampton Port

The biggest ever seizure of class A drugs in the UK is believed to have been made after 5.7 tonnes of cocaine was found in a container at Southampton Port on 8 February, hidden within a cargo of bananas. Specialist Border Force officers were called in to carry out the search by the National Crime Agency which identified the shipment through its Near Europe Task Force.

The blocks of drugs were found within a cargo which had been transported from South America. NCA officers believe the haul was heading to the Port of Hamburg in Germany for onward delivery.

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Enquiries are ongoing with international partners across Europe in order to identify the criminal networks involved. Based on UK street-level prices the cocaine would likely have had an estimated value of more than £450million. The previous largest UK seizures saw 3.7 tonnes of cocaine also found at Southampton in 2022, and 3.2 tonnes found on-board the tug boat MV Hamal in Scotland in 2015. 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.

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 MP, said the 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." The NCA’s Near Europe Task Force is a team funded through the Home Office Drug Strategy to focus on the international supply of drugs, identifying and disrupting offenders, and making it more difficult for organised criminal groups to transport drugs to the UK.