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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 November, 2004, 15:33 GMT
Drug squad hits 'middle' dealers
Drugs and money seized in the Middle Market Drugs Project
More then 9m-worth of drugs and 35,000 cash have been seized
A new drugs squad formed to blitz the capital's supply of Class A drugs will target dealers acting as the link between smugglers and street sellers.

A two-month trial of the initiative has already netted cocaine worth over 9m.

The Middle Market Drugs Project's financial investigators will use legal powers to seize money made from drugs.

The joint venture between the Met and Customs and Excise was launched in London by police and customs chiefs and government ministers.

The unit's work on disrupting criminal networks, stifling supply and arresting traffickers and seizing their assets is vital
Home Office Minister Caroline Flint

Forensic testing of substances will also be carried out in an attempt to match DNA from hauls made overseas.

Speaking at the launch of the project at Custom's House, central London, Home Office Minister Caroline Flint said it was "a good day for law enforcement and the people of London and a bad day for drug dealers".

"The unit's work on disrupting criminal networks, stifling supply and arresting traffickers and seizing their assets is vital," she said.

As well as breaking down the supply chain, demand was being cut by getting users into treatment, she added.

FIRST TWO MONTHS OF PROJECT
96 kilos of cocaine seized - street value 9m
750g of crack cocaine seized - street value 71,250
4 kilos of heroin seized - street value 176,000
50 kilos of cannabis - street value 200,000
35,000 in cash seized
25 people arrested and charged

Assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, head of the specialist crime directorate, said drug tests on thieves and burglars in 17 London boroughs over the last year had revealed that just under 60% had tested positive for Class A drugs.

"We know the harm drugs do to communities but the perpetrators are also linked to organised crime and things like kidnapping."

By stopping the drugs from getting onto the streets, other crimes would be cut, he said.

Customs investigations chief Paul Evans said it was essential that drug dealers could not profit from crime.

Customs chief investigation officer Paul Evans
For far too long these criminal have had a free run and it's something we need to stop
Customs chief Paul Evans

The powers of the Proceeds of Crime Act would be used to strip criminals of their assets, he said.

About 35,000 in cash had already been captured in the project's two-month trial period.

"We need to stop the Cinderella of the drugs industry.

"For far too long these criminal have had a free run and it's something we need to stop."

Customs already had 10 officers in Afghanistan and close links with colleagues in Columbia, Venezuela and the Caribbean, in particular Jamaica.

"The drugs from these places end up in a street and a community near you," he said.

Trial period

Similar projects are being set up in the West Midlands, the North West of England, Wales and the West Country, he added.

At the launch, officials displayed drugs already captured by the project team, including the 96 kilos of cocaine.

HM Customs' Paul Evans, Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo and Home Office Minister Caroline Flint
The trial project has already seized 96 kilos of cocaine

Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo, also speaking at the launch, hailed its success for "hitting the criminals hard".

The new unit has a total of 70 staff including 29 Met detectives and 31 customs investigators.

It focuses on Class A drugs in volumes of at least one kilo of cocaine and half a kilo of heroin.

The launch comes as senior police officers are asking the government to consider a new system to force drug dealers to pay tax.

Officers want to adopt a scheme where dealers anonymously buy pre-paid tax stamps to display on drugs.

If not displayed and the drugs are seized, it could trigger an immediate tax demand.




SEE ALSO:
Law hitting criminals 'in pocket'
13 Oct 04 |  Scotland


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