Spanish police smash Britain-bound cocaine ring

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Spanish police have smashed a group that smuggled cocaine into Britain hidden in false bottoms of trucks with the arrest of 10 people, including the leader of the gang, police said Tuesday.

The group was based in Barcelona and the holiday island of Ibiza in the Mediterranean where they sold part of the cocaine, police said in a statement.

"The drugs were hidden in false bottoms of the vehicles which were driven to England by drivers who were 'subcontracted' by the organisation," it said.

"Members of the network would accompany the convoy to provide security to the operations and prevent the possibility of thefts or the non-payment of deliveries."

The group invested their funds in real estate in Ibiza where they planned to set up businesses that target high-end tourists.

The authorities also seized 35 kilos (77 pounds) of cocaine, four guns as well as 65,000 pounds and 71,500 euros in cash as part of their operation.

Britain has one of the highest rates of cocaine consumption in Europe.

Across the country 2.4 percent of the population consumes cocaine every year, according to figures from the UN's International Narcotics Control Board.

Cocaine use among teenagers and young adults in Britain has rocketed since the 1990s, with a "line" now costing as little as two pounds -- less than a pint of beer.

Spain s proximity to north Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it a major gateway into Europe for drug traffickers.

© 2011 AFP

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