A MAN from Bolton has been arrested for allegedly being part of the UK's biggest ever drugs racket.

The 47-year-old was arrested during a series of dawn raids this morning, which were carried out as part of a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation.

In total, 13 suspected members of an international organised crime group were arrested. The group are responsible for importing in billions of pounds worth of drugs into the UK from the Netherlands.

The men, aged between 24 and 59, are said to be part of the group that used Dutch and British front companies to import more than 50 tonnes of heroin, cocaine and cannabis through UK ports over an 18-month period.

The NCA said that the drugs were hidden within lorry loads of vegetables and juice.

Four men and two women from the Netherlands were also arrested in April 2019 by the Dutch National Police on European Arrest Warrants. They are currently awaiting extradition to the UK.

Jayne Lloyd, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, said: “The NCA targets organised crime groups causing the greatest harm to the UK.

“Stopping criminals who don’t care about the damage they are causing in communities, and the children being exploited by County Lines drug dealing, is an absolute priority.

“We suspect these men were involved in an industrial-scale operation – the biggest ever uncovered in the UK – bringing in tonnes of deadly drugs that were distributed to crime groups throughout the country.

“By working closely with partners here and overseas, in particular the Dutch National Police, we believe we have dismantled a well-established drug supply route.”

Along with Bolton, arrests were also made in Manchester, Stockport, St Helens, Warrington, Leeds, Dewsbury, and London.

Europol, Eurojust, Police of Finland National Bureau of Investigation, Border Force, HMRC and numerous police forces have also supported the NCA with the investigation.

The full extent of the drug trafficking operation the NCA allege these men were involved in was uncovered following the interception of three consignments in September 2018.

They contained 351kg of cocaine, 92kg of heroin, 250kg of cannabis and 1,850kg of hemp/hashish, with a total street value of more than £38 million.

Subsequent enquiries led officers to believe they had imported drugs on numerous occasions between February 2017 and October 2018.

This investigation linked to an NCA operation, where 13 individuals were jailed for a total of 176 years, after the seizure of more than 100kg of heroin in 2015.