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Raids hit international cocaine ring

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LONDON (AP) — Police in Britain and Colombia raided homes and made arrests in a coordinated strike against a major cocaine smuggling and money laundering operation.

Police in London said they had broken the largest known drug operation in Britain, arresting 10 men and two women and seizing $412,500 in cash. In the two-year investigation, British authorities previously reported 20 arrests and the seizure of $32 million in cocaine.

"Today's coordinated activity was about ripping out the heart of this organization from top to bottom," Detective Chief Superintendent Sharon Kerr said. "This is the final phase which was aimed and focused at the very top tier of this criminality."

Colombian authorities seized $40,000, vehicles, and bullets in the raids, which took place primarily in the western cities of Cali and Pereira, Col. Mario Gutierrez, director of the judicial police, told The Associated Press.

Police also discovered records of deposits in Colombian banks and exchange houses coming from Europe and totaling $17.5 million, Gutierrez said.

Around 100 police officers took part in the raids of 23 addresses across London.

The organization is based near the Colombian city of Cali, British police said.

Kerr described the ring as "the biggest drugs operation and cartel that has ever been seen in this country." British authorities did not disclose details about those arrested, but said most were Colombians.

"This was the final stage of an operation against an enduring, sophisticated and hard-to-penetrate criminal network," Kerr said.

The organization took in more than $165 million from its drug and money-laundering operations over the past 18 months, she told a news conference.