BREAKING NEWS: raids in Stretton-on-Dunsmore and Wolston and 15 people charged as part of Warwickshire Police’s largest ever drugs investigation

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Officers from Warwickshire Police’s Serious & Organised Crime Unit (Socu) have arrested and charged 15 people across the country as part of an investigation into importing drugs into the UK.

Since 2007 Warwickshire Police’s Operation Damascus has seen 24 people being convicted for drug trafficking offences as well as the seizure of three tonnes of cannabis, 200kg of Amphetamines, £130,000 in cash and five firearms.

The operation identified further suspects and the investigation was widened. In 2008, Socu officers went to Spain to work with local police who were also investigating links to those convicted in Operation Damascus.

Following extensive liaison with the Spanish authorities, information they had obtained was passed to Socu and following painstaking and thorough examination of the intelligence, a series of warrants took place yesterday (Tuesday).

These took place in the following locations:

· Warwickshire: Bulkington, Bishop’s Tachbrook, Fenny Compton, Snitterfield, Stretton-on-Dunsmore, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Wolston

· Coventry;

· Birmingham;

· Stoney Stanton, Leicestershire

· Chelmsford, Essex;

· Tonbridge, Kent;

· Capel, Sussex;

An estimated £50,000 in cash was seized as well as some small amounts of what are believed to be drugs, while items such as mobile phones and computers have also been seized for analysis.

17 people were arrested and while two people were bailed, the others were all charged overnight with drugs related offences and are appearing today at a special hearing at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.

The operation involved more than 220 officers from eight forces and was supported by all four West Midlands forces through the Regional Organised Crime Unit, in particular Warwickshire’s Alliance partners at West Mercia Police.

Detective Chief Inspector Ally Wright, head of Warwickshire Socu: “This was a major feat of organisation that needed co-ordinated warrants executed across central and southern England.

“It is the largest drugs investigation ever undertaken by Warwickshire Police and serves to show we will take all necessary steps to protect our communities from the harm caused by illegal drugs.

“In particular we have enjoyed fantastic support from West Mercia Police, an excellent example of the alliance between the two forces working well at many levels.

“I would like to place on record my thanks and gratitude for the assistance given by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and the South East and West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Units.

“As everyone can imagine, these arrests and charges are not the end of the process but it opens up a new phase in our investigation as we work with the CPS towards securing convictions.”