A woman aged 56 and a man aged 32 were detained by NCA officers at an address in Hanwell, west London on Monday 21 June. Meanwhile at the same time a 31-year-old woman was arrested at a location in Hounslow.
All three were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to export class A drugs, fraud and breaches of the Aviation Security Act.
At the address in Hanwell gold bullion thought to be worth in excess of £250,000 was also seized, along with keys to a safety deposit box containing £60,000 in cash.
The trio were questioned and released under investigation the next day.
The arrests followed a seizure of around 500 kilos of cocaine at Sydney Airport on 15 May.
Australian Border Force officers found the drugs concealed in a consignment described as ‘lift and tailgate parts’ which had been shipped from Heathrow using a UK freight agent.
They estimate the drugs would have had a potential street value of around £84 million.
New South Wales Police Force Organised Crime Squad detectives subsequently arrested three people in connection with their investigation into the importation on 18 May.
NCA investigators have been able to identify a number of other similar shipments made from the UK to Australia using a similar method. These are now under investigation.
NCA Branch Commander Andy Noyes said: “Our investigation is looking at a sophisticated network of criminals able to smuggle large quantities of class A drugs across the globe via air freight.
“Some of those involved appeared to have insider knowledge of freight systems which they exploited. Protecting the safety and security of the UK is a priority for us.
“Working through our overseas network with our partners in Australia and at home in the UK we are determined to do all we can to track down those involved, and our investigation will continue.”
Mark Bishop, Head of Asia Pacific region for NCA International, added: “I’m grateful for the continued cooperation and support of Australian Border Force and the New South Wales Police Force on this investigation.
“This partnership is vital to tackle international serious and organised crime affecting both our countries.”
24 June 2021