Man arrested in Birkenhead as part of £140m drug smuggling plot

Members of a suspected organised crime group from the North West of England have been arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle £140m worth of cocaine into the United Kingdom, as part of a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation.

The consignment, which weighed 1.3 tonnes, was discovered in August last year in a shipping container at the Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk, after it had arrived from Sierra Leone.

The Class A drugs, which had a street value of £140m, were hidden in 20 kilogram sacks with a cover load of flour and were destined to be delivered to an industrial estate in Wigan.

On Wednesday, 29 November, NCA officers arrested nine suspects from the organised crime group (OCG) in a series of co-ordinated strikes.

Six of the suspects are allegedly directly linked to the huge seizure. Three of the alleged OCG members were arrested over other conspiracy to supply Class A drugs offences.

The men are in their forties, fifties, and sixties.

Two suspects were arrested at properties in Bootle, one in Crosby, and one man was arrested in Birkenhead. Four suspects were arrested at properties in Chorley, Lancashire.

One man was produced from prison and also arrested.

The men allegedly had various roles within the conspiracy from orchestrating the importation to organising premises and logistics. All are currently in custody awaiting interview.

Richie Davies, National Crime Agency Branch Commander, said, “This was a massive haul of cocaine with an estimated street value of £140m.

“There is no doubt these drugs would have been sold on into communities across the UK fuelling violence, exploitation and misery.

“Since the seizure of the drugs the agency has been working intensely to identify and pursue those responsible.”

Five suspects were arrested in late 2022 over the importation and were later released under investigation. Three of those suspects have since been rearrested.

Image: Inside the shipping container. Credit: NCA

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