Detectives investigating an £11.5 million cocaine seizure in Belgium have swooped on addresses in south Essex.

They arrested one person during a late night search of a Runwell farm and an unknown address in nearby Wickford.

In all five men and one woman have been taken into custody after they also searched homes in Wendover in Bucks, Clayhill in Essex, Bushey and Watford in Herts. Police also swooped at Heathrow Airport.

Those arrested were expected to be interviewed at several police stations in the south east yesterday.

Officers from the National Crime Squad discovered the 163 kilos of cocaine at a house in Ostend on Sunday.

They were working with the National Criminal Intelligence Service, Customs and Excise and the Belgium Gendarmerie.

The cocaine was believed to be en route to Great Britain. A Belgian man was also arrested.

This is the largest single cocaine seizure by the National Crime Squad since it was launched in April last year and results from Operation Pierrot, a two-year operation by the squad and its predecessor the South East Regional Crime Squad.

The operation has dismantled what had been identified by the National Criminal Intelligence Service as one of the major drug trafficking organisations within the UK and will hopefully lead to the confiscation of assets of more than £3 million.

National Crime Squad Det Chief Insp Peter Spindler said yesterday: "This is a classic example of the kind of operation we carry out.

"The success results from the work of our own highly professional staff and from close co-operation with law enforcement colleagues in this country and in Europe."

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