‘Huge’ 1.5 tonne heroin haul found hidden in shipping container

One of the largest-ever European seizures of heroin with a street value of around £150 million has been made in a joint international operation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Feb 24, 2021
By Paul Jacques

More than 1.5 tonnes of the Class A drug was found hidden in a container filled with Himalayan rock salt at the Port of Rotterdam.

NCA Deputy Director Matt Horne said: “This is a huge heroin seizure and not only have we stopped it making its way to the streets, we have denied organised crime tens of millions of pounds in profits.”

The seizure followed intelligence developed by the NCA and Dutch and Belgian law enforcement.

Five men were arrested at an address in Etten Leur, outside of Breda, in the Netherlands. Two have since been released under investigation, while the other three have been remanded into custody for a further 90 days.

The NCA said the huge haul – the biggest ever in the Netherlands – would be worth around £30 million to organised criminals at wholesale, and around £150 million at street level in the UK, where it is typically supplied via County Lines dealing.

Over the past year the NCA has seized more than 116 tonnes of Class A drugs as part of international operations, working with law enforcement partners to stop illicit drugs reaching the UK.

Mr Horne said: “The heroin trade feeds addictions that put users’ lives at risk, while giving rise to high levels of violence and exploitation that comes with County Lines dealing.

“Through strong relationships with our Dutch and Belgian partners, we are targeting criminals who transport bulk consignments of Class A drugs into Europe and onward to the UK.

“We will continue to work alongside partners here and overseas to target criminals who chase profits while dominating and intimidating communities.”

In another operation, cocaine worth an estimated £1.6 million has been seized in Northern Ireland as part of a NCA investigation into drug supply.

The 20kg haul 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 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 NCA investigators.

Officers using special equipment had to be brought in to recover the drugs in an operation that took several hours and also involved Belfast Harbour Police, 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 same investigation.

Cocaine packages laid out


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.

“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.”

PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent John McVea said: “We are delighted with the success of our law enforcement colleagues. 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 this 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.”

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