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Big cache of drugs and arms discovered

A MASSIVE haul of arms and drugs was discovered hidden on a lorry during a spot check at Dover docks yesterday, prompting fears that they were destined for organised crime syndicates.

The drugs and arms cache was hidden inside a crane arm being brought into Britain from Belgium. The drugs haul, discovered by customs officers, included amphetamines and ecstasy with a street value of around pounds 2m. More worrying was the large haul of guns; some 24 handguns were seized as well as a a Skorpion sub- machine-gun.

One source at the Customs National Investigation Service warned: "When you're talking about this quantity of drugs combined with firearms, you're talking about organised crime of some description."

The discovery followed what officials said was an "intuitive" search, and was contained in two hollowed out cranes being transported by the lorry. The firearms comprised 20 Browning pistols, four Smith and Wesson handguns and 300 rounds of ammunition.

The drugs haul consisted of 15kg of ecstasy and 130kg of amphetamines. Total value of the drugs haul is an estimated pounds 2m, and the ecstasy haul is the fourth biggest seizure made this month.

A Customs spokesman, Nigel Knott, said: "The contraband was concealed in the cranes, which are the sort usually used on the back of JCBs and diggers. They are hollow and the access panels had been cut away and resealed, with the guns and drugs packed inside. The guns and drugs were on the back of a lorry which tried to get into the country through Dover Eastern Docks.

"There has been a lot of talk about threats over the millennium and we are being as vigilant as we possibly can. We are not simply after bootleggers. There has been a number of hauls going through Dover."

This seizure follows 666g of cannabis found in a wooden monkey statue and other drugs in teddy bears and toy windmills earlier this month.

The find follows warnings that criminal gangs are creating stockpiles of rave drugs ready for a lucrative blitz on the millennium party scene.

Customs have seized more than 325kg of ecstasy since October this year, compared with 250kg for the whole of last year amid a worldwide boom for synthetic drugs.

The 135kgs of amphetamines seized yesterday marks a major success for Customs as only 600kgs have been recovered in the rest of the year.

A man was charged in connection with a huge drugs and arms cache discovered stowed in a lorry during a spot check at Dover docks, Customs investigators said.

Last night Daniel Dooney, 46, a lorry driver from Mexborough, South Yorkshire, was charged with importation in connection with the incident, which could carry a life sentence. Dooney was due to appear before Dover magistrates today.