Ports in South West targeted during week of action

Fifty kilos of heroin and more than £500,000 has been seized as officers from UK law enforcement agencies have been carrying out a week of heightened operational activity at various air, sea and rail ports as they continue to protect the public from the threat of terrorism and serious organised crime at these key locations across the country.

Starting on Monday 8th June, police along with colleagues from Border Force, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have carried out briefings to over 1,000 employees working at 55 UK ports over the past week, advising them on what they should be looking out for to help tackle the threat of terrorism and serious organised crime.

Briefings were delivered by specialist Counter Terrorism Security Advisors alongside officers from Border Force, NCA and HMRC with ports staff advised on signs and behaviour they should be aware of and what they should do if they spot something suspicious. 
 
The week’s activity, which was coordinated by the National Counter Terrorism Policing Headquarters (NCTPHQ), also saw officers from across the UK’s various police forces working closely with partner agencies on around 550 operational activities targeting terrorist-related activity and serious organised crime. Operations were carried out targeting the illegal passage of cash, weapons, drugs, goods and people through British ports linked to criminal or terrorist-related activity.

Approximately £535,000 has been seized at various sea, rail and air ports during the week. Police and Border Force officers at Heathrow seized around £20,000, which was discovered after seven people were stopped at the airport and approximately €50,000 were seized by police from a traveller who had just arrived at London St. Pancras International station from Paris. Police and Border Force officers, along with sniffers dogs have also seized around £35,000 from across ports in the North West of England, including Manchester airport and Liverpool John Lennon airport.

NCA and Border Force officers seized 50kg of heroin with an approximate street value of £2.5m, following a search of a Heavy Goods Vehicle at Harwich port. The packages were located by an NCA drugs dog, who found them hidden behind a soft panel in the driver’s cab of the vehicle. The driver has been charged and remains in custody while the NCA’s Border Policing Command continue to investigate.

HMRC officers, working alongside colleagues from Border Force at Dover also seized three lorries containing approximately 60,000 litres of beer and 8,000 litres of wine, which is estimated to be worth a potential £75,000 in lost excise duty.

Chief Inspector Sarah Johns from the South West Counter Terrorism Investigation Unit has led the operation for the South West.

She said: “Effective boarder control is a key element in countering the threat from terrorism and serious organised crime.

“In the South West, we have several, large ports, docks and harbours which can be seen as an easy route into the country by individuals and groups involved in these crimes.

“Over the last week we have undertaken several activities at ports, airports and landing strips to raise awareness of these issues and to further educate those who live and work at these locations.

“We have been working with several partner agencies which builds upon the good relationships that already exist.

“On top of larger airports in Bristol and Bournemouth, we have also inspected smaller airfields and aircrafts across the region.

“Although there was nothing of significance found during this activity in the south west it tested and demonstrated multi-agency coordination and cooperation to a high level.

“It is crucial that communities local to airports and seaports are aware of the risks and signs of terrorism and serious organised crime so they can play their part in the fight against it.”

National Police Lead for Counter Terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said:

“Everyone has a role to play in defeating terrorism and those working at ports and involved in ports and travel industries can play an important part in helping to protect the whole of the UK from these threats.

“With the increased threat of terrorism, this week of activity has shown that the UK’s law enforcement agencies are working closer than ever to protect the public. This work goes on 52 weeks of the year, but as we approach the summer - and what is traditionally the busiest period of the year for our ports - this is a timely reminder of the work that police and others do on a daily basis to protect the public from such threats.”

Border Force Director General, Sir Charles Montgomery said:

"This week’s successful activity demonstrates the vital work Border Force officers are doing on the front line every day to protect our national security by identifying and disrupting organised crime gangs and individuals with links to terrorism.

“Border Force continues to work in partnership with the police, HMRC and NCA to tackle the global illicit trade in counterfeit goods and illegal substances as well as detecting British fighters attempting to return to the UK.”

Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency’s Border Policing Command, Tom Dowdall said:

“This week highlights the crucial work that law enforcement performs on a daily basis in combatting the scourge of organised criminals that trade in guns, drugs and human trafficking.

“What is essential is the engagement with those working, living in and travelling through the UK’s port and airfield communities. Reporting something slightly unusual could be the piece of information that helps prevent the misery brought by drugs, weapons and human trafficking from reaching Britain’s streets.”

Richard Las, Deputy Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

"We work closely with our law enforcement partners to target crime and protect the UK from tax evasion and fraud, which funds serious organised crime. This initiative has been a major success for all agencies and we will continue to build on our intelligence and investigations into smuggling activities to reassure the public and bring these criminals before the courts."

As of yesterday 11 June, there had been a total of 11 arrests for various offences, including drugs and money laundering offences. Almost 1,000 vehicles and more than 300 vessels have been searched, along with 25 containers and 34 packages across the 55 UKports. Activity is continuing today.

We ask the public to remain vigilant by reporting suspicious activity to the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789321 or by calling police on 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.

Issued: 12 June 2015

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