London - Eleven people were arrested in dawn raids on Wednesday in an operation to smash a multi-million pound drugs ring that used cargo handlers at Heathrow airport to help smuggle cocaine into Britain from Mexico, police said.
The drugs would arrive in London in cargo containers on flights from Mexico City, police added in a statement.
Once the aircraft arrived into the terminal, cargo handlers would quickly remove the drugs, which were boxed inside the container, before it was moved on.
Couriers would then liaise with the cargo handlers, collect the drugs and pass them on to accomplices responsible for distributing the drugs to local dealers.
During the period of the investigation, large quantities of near pure cocaine were recovered with a street value totaling many millions of pounds, the statement said.
"We have dismantled what was a sophisticated, well oiled, well established operation involving a network of criminals from the cargo handlers to the couriers to the distributors all the way up to the top of the pile," said Detective Superintendent Stephen Ratcliffe from the Serious, Organised and Economic Crime Command.
Those held in the raids in London and the southeast were aged between 25 and 53 and remain in custody.