Police Arrested Britons when Cocaine Disguised as Wood

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Police arrested Six men from Liverpool in coordinated raids and detectives say they have cracked a major “industrial sized lab”.

Police have arrested six men from Liverpool as part of an international drugs bust which involved 1.4 tons of compressed cocaine disguised as wooden shipping pallets. The drugs arrived on a Colombian ship into the Spanish port of Valencia on 30 November. The shipping container was cracked open and appeared to contain sacks of charcoal loaded onto black wooden pallets. 

But agents found some sacks actually contained cocaine, and a chemical analysis revealed the 40 pallets were made from compressed cocaine made to look like wood. The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said 11 people had been arrested, including two Colombians, two Peruvians and one person from Spain.

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Four of the Britons were detained in and around the Liverpool area during coordinated raids on 1 December.  The NCA arrested a man, 44, at Liverpool airport, and two others, aged 54 and 50, on the rooftop car park at Belle Vale Shopping Centre. On the same day, Merseyside Police detained another man in Knowsley Village, while a 39-year-old and a 38-year-old were arrested at a luxury apartment in Dubai.

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The men arrested in Liverpool have been released on bail while more inquiries take place.  Authorities in Spain also seized thousands of litres of chemicals at a warehouse – thought to be intended to extract the cocaine.

“We believe the charcoal company was a front for a industrial-sized lab where cocaine was extracted from pallets and charcoal, processed and repackaged for onward distribution across Europe,”  “This seizure of cocaine, the shutting down of the lab and the eleven arrests will have disrupted criminal activity across the whole of Europe.” said the NCA’s Greg McKenna.  

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Because of Spain’s close ties with former colonies in Latin America, it has become an entry point used by drug smugglers bringing cocaine into Europe. Drug syndicates have used increasingly elaborate plans to evade detection in recent years, including hiding cocaine in breast implants, a wig, a plaster cast encasing a man’s broken leg, as well as inside a 42-piece crockery set.