Smuggled in banana crates, British police seize $250 million worth of cocaine

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LONDON (Reuters) - British police have seized over 2 tonnes of cocaine in one of the country's largest ever drug busts after they discovered 184 million pounds ($258 million) worth of the illegal drug packed into banana crates which had been shipped from Colombia.

Police arrested ten men in North London after they found the drugs at Portsmouth International Port earlier in the week, said the National Crime Agency (NCA) in its statement on Friday.

The 2.3 tonnes of cocaine arrived in 41 pallets, disguised as a legitimate consignment of bananas on a cargo ship.

Police removed the drugs before the pallets were delivered to an industrial estate in Tottenham, where specialist armed officers swooped and made five arrests. The other five men were arrested at a different industrial estate.

All the men, aged between 21 and 56, remain in custody and have been charged with the importation of class A drugs.

The NCA said the seizure, which had a street value of 184 million pounds, is believed to be one of the largest ever in the UK.

"This is a massive seizure which has denied organised criminals hundreds of millions in profits," said John Coles, head of specialist operations at the NCA.

"Illegal drugs are a corrosive threat and those who deal in cocaine are often violent and exploitative. Cocaine supply is directly linked to the use of firearms, knife crime and the exploitation of young and vulnerable people."

($1 = 0.7133 pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Alistair Smout)