A £2 million haul of cocaine hidden in packets of crisps in suitcases has been was seized onboard MSC Opera.
Twelve passengers, including two UK citizens and a Dutch national living in London, were arrested in Madeira as part of an investigation into drug smuggling.
The joint operation involving the National Crime Agency and Portuguese police identified and arrested six men and six women, all aged between 20 and 52, on Sunday.
This was after MSC Opera arrived into Funchal from the Caribbean where about 18 kilos of cocaine contained in bowls and crisp packets were recovered by Portuguese officers.
The haul, if adulterated and sold in the UK, could have had a potential street value of more than £2 million, according to the NCA.
Six of those arrested, including the two UK citizens and the Dutch national, 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.
Allan Round, NCA operations manager at the Joint Border Intelligence Unit, said: “We believe this operation will have seriously disrupted an organised crime group looking to traffic 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.”
All 12 have been detained pending prosecution in the Portuguese courts.
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