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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Police break suspected drugs ring
A man is taken away by officers
The arrests follow a two-year investigation
Twelve men have been arrested after police smashed a suspected multi-million pound drugs ring.

The men were held following raids by more than 100 officers on 19 addresses in London and Kent.

The arrests are the culmination of a two-year probe into a Colombian cartel supplying two London-based gangs.

The network is believed to have trafficked 530kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of 60m across London since 1998.

Semi-automatic guns

Police believe the ring is also behind attempts to import a further 668kg of cocaine, which were foiled by police, and money laundering activity estimated at 1.92m.

We are concentrating on those responsible for the distribution and when arrests occur they are far more significant
Det Sup Peter South

The drugs were smuggled from Columbia, via Jamaica and then into mainland Spain and through Europe before they reached the UK.

Specialist teams from the Metropolitan and Kent police forces were involved in the planned and synchronised dawn raids, codenamed Operation Alpington.

Twenty-five people have already been convicted and sentenced under Operation Alpington and Wednesday's arrests are linked to the same network, police said.

Seizures made in previous raids include 233kg of cocaine, 50kg of heroin, 7kg of amphetamines, 20kg of cannabis, 233,500 in cash and two semi-automatic handguns.

New approach

Det Sup Peter South, who led the investigation, said the suspected "backers, controllers and drivers" behind the three gangs had been arrested.

He said the operation marked a change of approach in tackling major drugs and criminal gangs.

"Instead of going for drug seizures and money seizures we are concentrating on those responsible for the distribution and therefore when arrests occur they are far more significant," he said.

The inquiry is linked to Operation Anuric, an investigation set up in 2001 into a highly-organised cocaine importation and money laundering ring - the biggest ever uncovered in the UK.

Thirty-four people, mainly from Colombia, were jailed in the UK after police smashed the international operation.

Mr South said the crackdown on the Class A drugs trade had led to a reduction in the quality of cocaine available on the streets of London.

Details of the investigation that led to the arrests


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