An international investigation has resulted in the largest ever seizure of heroin in the United Kingdom, denying vast sums of money to organized crime groups.
Nearly 1.3 tonnes of the drug were recovered from a container ship, the MV Gibraltar, after it docked at the port of Felixstowe on August 30.
National Crime Agency (NCA) intelligence had ascertained that the heroin would be on the vessel when it docked in the U.K. en route to Antwerp.
The record haul would be worth around £27 million to organized criminals at wholesale, and in excess of £120 million at street level.
The ship arrived on August 30, and was searched by officers from the U.K. government’s Border Force and the NCA. They found a total of 1,297kg of the substance concealed among a coverload of towels and bathrobes.
After officers removed the drugs, they returned the container to the vessel, which continued on to Antwerp and docked in the Belgian port city on September 1.
Under surveillance by Dutch and Belgian law enforcement agencies, the container was driven by lorry to a warehouse in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Upon arrival, officers moved in and arrested four people who were in the process of unloading the consignment.
The 1.3 tonne haul follows the seizure of 398 kilograms of heroin from a vessel at Felixstowe port on August 2.
NCA Deputy Director, Investigations, Matt Horne, said the record seizure is also one of the largest ever in Europe.
“The size of this and other recent shipments demonstrate the scale of the threat we face. We can be certain that some of these drugs would eventually have been sold in the U.K., fuelling high levels of violence and exploitation.”
Jenny Sharp, Border Force Assistant Director at Felixstowe, said the smugglers had hidden the drugs within a coverload of towels, stitching the 1kg blocks of heroin inside some of the towels.
“In total it took my officers nearly six hours – working in the early hours of Saturday morning – to remove the drugs.”