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'Ingenious' hiding place: Record cocaine haul found on luxury yacht

After a painstaking, six-day search of a million-pound luxury yacht, the UK Border Agency has seized its largest ever haul of cocaine, enough to satisfy around a third of Britain's annual demand for the drug.
Image: Cocaine from Britain's largest ever cocaine seizure is displayed by UK Border Agency staff in London
Cocaine from Britain's largest ever cocaine seizure is displayed by U.K. border agency staff in London August 3, 2011.Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

After a painstaking, six-day search of a million-pound luxury yacht, the U.K. border agency has seized its largest ever haul of cocaine — enough to satisfy around a third of Britain's annual demand for the drug.

The cocaine, weighing 1.2 tons and with a street value of up to 300 million pounds ($492 million), was found expertly hidden beneath the bathing deck of the yacht "Louise" at Southampton docks in June, the border agency said.

Officials said it is the largest-ever haul of Class A drugs ever found in the U.K. The U.K. classifies Class A drugs as those most likely to cause harm.

French authorities alerted British officials to the suspicious craft while it was in the Caribbean in May. The boat was traveling to the Netherlands via Southampton, in southern England.

It took six days of searching the vessel to find the drugs because the hiding place was "ingenious," said Brodie Clark of the U.K. border agency.

Image:
---EDITORS NOTE---RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE-MANDATORY CREDIT *AFP PHOTO/BRITISH HOME OFFICE/HO* - NO MARKETING, NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS A handout picture obtained in London on August 3, 2011, from Britain's Home Office, shows the luxury yacht 'Louise' in which packages of cocaine were found hidden while docked in England's southern port of Southampton. Police in Britain have seized the country's largest ever cocaine haul worth up to £300 million (343 million euros, $490 million) from a luxury yacht which had sailed from the Caribbean, officials said Wednesday. The 1.2-tonne stash was found hidden under the bathing deck of the pleasure cruiser which was docked in the port of Southampton in southeast England, Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and UK Border Agency (UKBA) said. AFP PHOTO/BRITISH HOME OFFICE/HANDOUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)- / AFP

The cocaine is believed to have originated in South America and been packed inside the boat in Venezuela.

Officials said the discovery of the drugs in June led to six arrests this week by Dutch police.

Commissioner Gert Ras, of the Dutch National Crime Squad, said the six men arrested were all Dutch nationals and included the 60-year-old owner of the boat and his three sons, aged 27, 32 and 34.

A further arrest of a seventh Dutch national is also expected, he added.

With a purity of 90 percent, the seized cocaine is of a much higher purity than the average seized in the UK, at 63 percent.

Along with the cocaine, the UKBA raid discovered a stash of 40,000 euros in cash and a firearm.

The operation involved intelligence provided by Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency and the help of French customs authorities.