In what is believed to be one of the largest recent seizures of its kind, Border Force officers found around 500kg of the class A drug after searching an aircraft that flew into the UK from Bogota in Colombia on Monday.
Two Britons, two Spaniards and an Italian were arrested on suspicion of importing class A drugs after the twin-engined jet landed at Farnborough airport in Hampshire. Border Force said that the drug was hidden in 15 suitcases that were found on board.
Border Force deputy chief operating officer Mike Stepney said: “After meeting the flight and questioning those on board, officers became suspicious and searched the aircraft and their luggage.
“When opened, each case was found to contain between 34 to 37 tape-wrapped packages weighing approximately one kilo each. One of these was pierced and a white powder exposed which tested positive for cocaine.”
Three properties in Bournemouth, Dorset, were also searched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as part of the investigation, and computers and phones taken away for examination.
NCA operations manager Siobhan Micklethwaite said: “This is a major seizure of cocaine, one of the largest flown into the UK by plane in many years, and this seizure by Border Force represents a major blow to organised crime. We estimate that once cut and sold on the streets in the UK it would have had a potential value in excess of £50m.”
The aircraft crew were questioned before being released without charge.