COCAINE worth £150million was seized at UK borders in the first four months of this year.
From January to April, 1,366kg of the drug was found at ports and airports in 99 seizures – almost 200 kilos more than in the previous four months.
It included 500kg of Colombian coke found at Surrey’s Farnborough airport in January, inset.
Five men – two British, two Spanish and one Italian – are currently on trial.
The street value of the contraband once cut and mixed would be over £150m if sold at £60-a-gram. Kept as a purer product it could be worth even more.
“There are whole groups of middle-class people who happily sit around talking and thinking about global warming, fair trade and organic food farms”
Last week Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said drugs and gangs were linked to violence which has claimed 87 lives in the capital this year.
She said demand for cocaine was on the rise and there was a challenge tackling middle-class users who worry about the environment, but not about people affected by their drug habits.
Ms Dick said: “There are whole groups of middle-class people who happily sit around talking and thinking about global warming, fair trade and organic food farms.
“But they do not think there is any harm in taking cocaine, when there is.”
Security minister Ben Wallace said the UK “is fast becoming the biggest consumer of cocaine in Europe”.
He said the “high-margin, highsupply drug” was fuelling an increase in violence on the streets. Technology had enabled young dealers to evade detection and order drugs direct from “serious” gangs.
The minister said he was “not deaf” to Labour claims that police cuts put pressure on officers trying to deal with the problem.
The Farnborough seizure – half a metric ton in suitcases in a private jet from Colombia – suggests traffickers are becoming bolder trying to off-load the South American country’s booming cocaine production.
Harry Shapiro of drugs charity Drugwise said cocaine in the UK has seen a “dramatic” rise in purity, with street samples up to 80% or 90% pure.
Shapiro said dealers were competing to satisfy growing demand by raising purity levels.
He added: “Another possible reason is that there could be over-supply in places like Colombia.”
He said rebels who control a lot of the cocaine could be producing the drug at a frantic rate as they know they will not be able to make as much once a new peace treaty kicks in.