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Record cocaine haul seized on yacht in U.K.

British officials announced on Wednesday that they had seized 1.2 tons of cocaine found on a boat in Southampton in June, setting a new drug-bust record for the U.K.

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British officials announced on Wednesday that they had seized 1.2 tons of cocaine found on a boat in Southampton in June, setting a new drug-bust record for the U.K.

Officials said the cocaine had an estimated street value of 300 million pounds ($492 million) and was 90 percent pure, the Associated Press reports. The average purity of cocaine seized in the U.K. is 63 percent. Officials said the haul was the largest amount of Class A drugs ever found in the U.K.

The cocaine was found hidden aboard a 65-foot yacht named The Louise, which was en route to the Netherlands and had stopped in Southhampton, according to the BBC. It is believed that the drugs were packed inside the boat in Venezuela, and French authorities alerted British officials about the vessel in May, when The Louise was in the Caribbean. The stash was so well hidden, however, that it took officials six days of searching to find the special compartment beneath the boat's bathing platform where it was concealed.

"It was ingenious, it was difficult to find," Brodie Clark, head of the U.K. Border Agency's border force, told the BBC of the compartment. "Skillful people spent a number of days looking for it."

David Armond, of the U.K.'s Serious Organized Crime Agency, told the BBC that the seized drugs, once cut, would have produced about eight tons of sellable cocaine, translating to seven million street deals. Armond said that, on the street, the drugs would have represented one third of the cocaine sold in the U.K. each year.

One previous U.K. cocaine bust, from 1994, approached the quantity seized on The Louise, but the BBC reports the 1994 haul included the weight of barrels used to ship the cocaine found:

In 1994 customs staff seized a 1.245 tonnes haul of cocaine which was found on board the MV Jurata in Birkenhead, however the Home Office said since the bitumen barrels the cocaine was hidden in were also included in the total weight of the haul, the latest discovery is considered larger.

Officials also said that the seizure had resulted in the arrests of six men by Dutch police this week. The men, all Dutch nationals, are believed to be part of an organized crime gang. Those arrested include the 60-year old owner of the yacht and his three sons, aged 27, 32 and 34, according to the BBC. Police have also seized "a total of 100,000 euros (£87,300), two Harley Davidson motorcycles, two firearms, a silencer and a quantity of ecstasy" in connection with the bust.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/110803/record-cocaine-haul-12-tons-seized-boat-uk