Cocaine haul worth pounds 20m marks triumph for Customs

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Customs officers seized cocaine with a street value of up to pounds 20m yesterday from a cargo ship at Avonmouth, near Bristol. It was the largest cocaine haul so far this year and matched roughly one quarter of the total cocaine seized during 1996.

Divers undertaking a routine search of the ship's hull below the waterline found five holdalls containing 200kg of the drug hidden behind a metal grate.

The ship, the Cypriot-registered Margo L, docked last Wednesday after sailing with a cargo of coal from Colombia.

A senior investigating office for HM Customs and Excise, Ranald Macdonald, last night said the find was an "enormous success" but hoped further investigations would discover whether the drugs had been destined for the streets of Britain or those of the Margo L's next stop, Estonia. Matthew Brace