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Police arrest 12 suspects in UK/Colombian drug ring

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) London police arrested 12 men today on suspicion of being part of international drugs networks in Britain and Colombia suspected of trafficking cocaine with a street value of 60 million pounds.

More than 100 officers conducted a series of dawn raids on 19 houses across London and Kent, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

The arrests were part of an investigation -- codenamed operation Alpington -- into a major Columbian criminal network believed to have been supplying cocaine to two London-based criminal networks since 1998.

The were also linked to an earlier investigation, operation Anuric, into a mainly Colombian gang which ran the biggest cocaine and money-laundering ring ever uncovered in Britain.

''The complete network are believed to be responsible for the supply of up to 530 kilos of cocaine, the intended importation of a further 668 kilos of cocaine ... and money laundering the proceeds of their activity that is estimated at 1.92 million pounds,'' the police statement said.

''The street value of the cocaine they have trafficked is estimated to be worth 60 million pounds.'' Twenty-five people have already been convicted and sentenced as part of operation Alpington and police have seized more than 230 kilos of cocaine, 50 kilos of heroin, seven kilos of amphetamine sulphate, 20 kilos of cannabis and more than 230,00 pounds in cash.

''Sadly this massive criminal racket is the seedy side of globalisation,'' said the Met's assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur. ''Much of the serious and organised crime tackled by us involves criminal networks -- we find that criminals rarely work alone.'' Thirty-four people were jailed in Britain in January for a total of more than 300 years after police working on operation Anuric smashed the largest cocaine and money-laundering ring ever detected in the UK.

Up to 20,000 people worldwide were believed to have been involved in the money-laundering operation and police said they thought the gang had brought in more than 1 billion pounds' worth of cocaine over a 10-year period, supplying drugs to every major British city.

REUTERS SHB BST1650

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