Three arrested over £1.6 million cocaine haul hidden in van

Two men from Wolverhampton and one from South Staffordshire have been arrested after police intercepted a van carrying £1.6 million of cocaine into Northern Ireland.

Laethian McCalla, 39, of Arps Road, Codsall, was arrested at Belfast port on Monday.

He has been charged with possession with intent to supply drugs and appeared at Laganside Magistrates Court in Belfast today, where he was remanded into custody ahead of an appearance on March 24.

The seizure of the 20-kilo haul - found hidden inside an empty fuel tank which was being transported by the van - was followed by the arrest of Anthony Terry, 46, of Crawford Road, Wolverhampton.

Terry has been charged with possessing an improperly obtained ID document and conspiracy to supply cocaine. He is due to appear before Wolverhampton Magistrates on Thursday.

A third man, from Wolverhampton, has also been arrested.

The 43-year-old was detained by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in Digbeth, Birmingham, before being questioned and released on bail pending further enquiries.

The cocaine seizure is believed to be one of the biggest in Northern Ireland in recent years.

The van had just arrived into Belfast port on a ferry from Birkenhead, in Merseyside.

Officers using special equipment were brought in to recover the drugs.

The operation took several hours and also involved Belfast Harbour Police, Border Force and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Detective chief superintendent John McVea, from PSNI, said: "Anything we can do to support a collective effort across a range of partners, as was seen in the operation, is always welcomed, as well as the fact that cocaine with an estimated street value of over £1.6 million has been taken out of the control of criminals."

Adam Warnock, branch manager at the NCA, said: “This was a significant seizure of cocaine, one of the biggest to be made by law enforcement in Northern Ireland in recent years.

“The loss of the profit that would have been made from it will be felt by the criminal groups involved in drug supply in the province."

“Working with our partners across law enforcement we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle organised crime networks and protect the public.”

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