updated 2/27/2008 6:22:05 PM ET 2008-02-27T23:22:05

British police thwarted a suspected plot to kill the king of Saudi Arabia during a state visit to Britain last year, a senior officer said Wednesday.

Officers caught a courier at Heathrow Airport attempting to smuggle $330,000 in cash into Britain to pay a cell of dissident Saudi Arabians, said Detective Superintendent Mark Holmes, head of the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit.

They were plotting to assassinate King Abdullah during his official visit to Britain in late October and early November — the first trip by a Saudi monarch to see Queen Elizabeth II in 20 years, Holmes said.

He said police had been tipped off about the courier by an informant but couldn't find the grounds needed to arrest him.

The cash was seized in a wad of $100 bills months before the visit, Holmes said, without giving a specific date.

"The money was coming to the U.K. for distribution around U.K.-based Saudi dissidents," Holmes said. "We suspect this was going to be used to facilitate the murder of Crown Prince Abdullah."

Abdullah's visit was shrouded in heavy security amid noisy protests over his oil-rich kingdom's human rights record and relationship with Islamic radicals.

The monarch also initially turned on his hosts, claiming that British intelligence officials had ignored Saudi warnings before the 2005 terrorist attack in London that killed 52 commuters on three subway cars and a bus.

Abdullah held talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown during the visit.

Brown's office said Wednesday it could not immediately comment on Holmes' comments about the foiled attack.

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