African agents seize £100m cocaine haul destined for Europe

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More than two tonnes of cocaine worth up to £100 million destined for Britain and Europe have been seized in west Africa.

Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) officials joined forces with local agents during raids on a remote drugs base in Gambia.

They discovered 2,100kg of cocaine in an underground bunker concealed behind the false warehouse wall of a fishing company.

The haul, which could be worth much more than £100 million once cut with other chemicals, was a record for west Africa.

The company has access to a large number of buildings, some based on a small island defended by armed guards.

Officials also recovered loaded guns as well as drug parcels imprinted with sales logos and the French flag.

Police and security officials have enjoyed increasing success in targeting drug cartels operating out of west African states.

Rural and often lawless locations are used as a stop-off point as they bring drugs across the Atlantic from south America and send them into Europe.

Investigators have been monitoring the use of cheap, antiquated aircraft used to transport massive loads of drugs to temporary landing strips.

Neil Giles, Soca deputy director, said: "It has long been feared that cocaine traffickers might seek to exploit the Gambia and other countries in the region as warehousing locations for drugs en route from South America to Europe.

"This seizure is highly significant in that it clearly demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement in Gambia to tackle the traffickers head on.

"Soca are pleased to be able to assist this excellent work and are working to increase the law enforcement capacity across the region.

"It is highly likely a large proportion of these drugs would have found their way onto the streets of Europe and the UK.

"Taking this cocaine, and the profits that it would have generated, out of the hands of criminals is a major blow to their operations."

The operation was led by members of the Gambian National Drugs Enforcement Agency with Soca providing extra support.

It followed the arrest of 12 suspects, including the Dutch owner and Venezuelan employees of a Gambian-based fishing company in May.

During the recent raids more than 210,000 euro (£173,000) in 500 euro notes, the currency of choice for international criminals, was recovered.