Arrests in Greater Manchester mephedrone drug ring raids
Twelve people have been arrested after raids in Greater Manchester by officers investigating a £3.8m internet-based drugs ring.
Police are investigating the alleged sale of about 313kg of mephedrone with the seven-figure street value through a Bolton-based website.
Seven men and five women, aged 21 to 62, have been held on suspicion of drug and money-laundering offences.
It follows a joint operation between Titan and Greater Manchester Police.
Eleven properties in Bolton, Bury, north Manchester and Salford were searched on Wednesday.
Police said the ongoing operation aims to disrupt the activities of a suspected organised crime group.
'Largest UK raid'
The drugs were being sold through the website www.wide-mouth-frogs.com, which is no longer operating.
"Meow meow" or "M-cat" is the common name for mephedrone, which until 2010 was legal to buy but not to consume as a drug.
It was made an offence to supply, or to be in possession of mephedrone, after use of the drug became increasingly widespread among clubbers.
Det Supt Jason Hudson of Titan, the north west's regional organised crime unit, said: "These strikes have taken months of planning and the operation reinforces our commitment to dismantle organised crime groups and tackle illegal drugs across our region.
"This operation is the largest of its kind in the UK since mephedrone and related substances were made illegal."
Mephedrone has been linked to a number of deaths.
Colin Tyrie, of Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, said: "Mephedrone, along with other new synthetic drugs, appears to be overtaking cocaine and ecstasy as the 'club-drugs' often referred to as bubble, magic, M-cat amongst numerous other names for what are often blends of synthetic compounds produced to mimic illegal drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.
"The risks of combining drugs and alcohol are often difficult to predict and this is further complicated by the potential mix of 'blended white powders' of which many will be unknown and unpredictable in their effects."