Published: 18:33, 15 April 2020
| Updated: 18:47, 15 April 2020
Drug mules have been blasted for exploiting the coronavirus crisis after an attempt to smuggle cocaine in an consignment of face masks.
Officers at the UK control zone in Coquelles made the discovery when they stopped a Polish-registered van attempting the enter the UK via the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone, yesterday.
Officers searched the vehicle and found a box of 15 wrapped packages - weighing approximately 14 kilos - concealed within the van, which was transporting boxes of protective face masks.
The contents of some of the packages were tested and proved positive for cocaine.
Ian Hanson, border force regional director for Coquelles, said: “This seizure shows the lengths drug smugglers will go to.
"It is despicable to think they would try and exploit the current situation in this way to get their dangerous drugs on to the UK’s streets.
“It is testament to the expertise of my Border Force officers that this smuggling attempt was prevented and shows we remain active on the frontline in keeping the country safe from illegal drugs and the harm they cause.
'This seizure is further evidence of the way criminal networks are attempting to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to their own ends...'
“Every year Border Force officers seize Class A drugs worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
"Working with law enforcement colleagues like the National Crime Agency (NCA) we are determined to prevent drug trafficking.”
The driver, a 34-year-old Polish national, was arrested and the investigation passed to the NCA. He remains in custody being questioned.
The masks have been detained pending checks by regulators.
NCA Dover branch operations manager Darren Herbert said: “This seizure is further evidence of the way criminal networks are attempting to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to their own ends, covering this load of drugs with what would seem like vital protective equipment.
"We are now investigating who was behind this attempt, but what is clear is that they have taken a substantial hit.
"At UK street prices this haul might have raised more than £1 million once adulterated and cut down – profit that they have now been denied."
Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or go to visiting www.gov.uk/report-smuggling.