Two Brits are among 12 people arrested after more than £2 million of cocaine was seized by police on a cruise liner.
Officers raiding the MSC Opera found 18 kilogrammes of the drug stashed in bowls and crisp packets hidden in suitcases.
They arrested six men and six women aged between 20 and 52, who were either waiting in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, or on board the MSC Opera when it arrived from the West Indies.
The joint operation between Britain’s National Crime Agency and the Judicial Police of Portugal led to the 24 March arrests of two UK citizens and a Dutch national living in London.
An NCA spokesman said: “Twelve people, including two UK citizens and a Dutch national living in London, have been arrested in Madeira as part of an investigation into drug smuggling on a cruise ship.
“The twelve, six men and six women all aged between 20 and 52, were detained after the cruise ship MSC Opera arrived into Funchal from the Caribbean.
“Approximately 18 kilos of cocaine were recovered by Portuguese officers, contained in bowls and crisp packets.
“The haul, if adulterated and sold in the UK, could have had a potential street value in excess of £2 million. Cash and phones were also seized.
“Six of those arrested, including the two UK citizens and the Dutch national living in London, had recently arrived on the island from the UK and were due to travel on from Madeira to various locations in Europe, including the UK.
“Four had been passengers on the cruise.
“All twelve have been detained pending prosecution in the Portuguese courts.”
The MSC Opera can hold 2,679 people and was recently refurbished to feature a spray park, swimming pool and large restaurant.
While Madeira is located off the coast of Morocco and is autonomous, it is a region of Portugal and operates under the larger country’s judicial system.
Allan Round, NCA operations manager at the Joint Border Intelligence Unit, added:
“We believe this operation will have seriously disrupted an organised crime group looking to traffick cocaine into the UK and Europe.
“Working with our Portuguese colleagues we have been able to act on intelligence at speed and prevent this quantity of drugs from reaching its final destination.
“Once in the UK we know cocaine generates huge profits for criminal networks who are also involved in street violence and exploitation, so stopping it will help reduce the harm caused by them.”
The Joint Border Intelligence Unit combines staff from the NCA, Border Force and other law enforcement to share intelligence and pursue and disrupt those who attempt to evade UK border controls for criminal purposes.