Britain seizes record cocaine haul

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Police in Britain have seized the country's largest ever cocaine haul, worth up to £300 million (343 million euros, $490 million), from a luxury yacht which had sailed from the Caribbean, officials said Wednesday.

The 1.2-tonne stash was found hidden under the bathing deck of the pleasure cruiser which was docked in the port of Southampton in southeast England, Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and UK Border Agency (UKBA) said.

Officials said it was the largest haul of Class A drugs -- classified as those most likely to cause harm -- ever found in Britain.

French authorities were alerted to suspicions over the yacht, named Louise, while it was in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean in May.

The boat was then intercepted in Southampton in June on its way to the Netherlands.

Dutch police on Tuesday arrested six men suspected to be members of an international drugs ring, on intelligence from British and French authorities.

Deputy director for SOCA International David Armond said the find was "hugely significant for Europe".

"This seizure is a great success in the international effort to damage and disrupt the cocaine trade, and is a credit to the many nations and organisations involved," he said.

The drugs, estimated to be worth between £50 million wholesale and £300 million on the streets, were found in a specially designed compartment after a six-day search of the 65-foot (20-metre) cruiser.

The cocaine, which originated in South America, is believed to have been loaded in Venezuela.

Public Prosecutor for the National Prosecutor's Office in the Netherlands, Gert Rip, said: "About 40 percent of all cocaine brought into Europe is trafficked using smuggling routes from the Caribbean.

"Venezuela is often used as a supply line of cocaine for the European market."

The drug was 90 percent pure compared to the 63 percent average purity of drugs seized at the British border, officials said.

A total of 100,000 euros (£87,000, $145,000), two Harley Davidson motorcycles, two firearms, a silencer and some ecstasy were also seized.

© 2011 AFP

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