Northern Ireland

Belfast: Two men arrested over 'benzocaine haul'

Two men in their 20s arrested in a drugs operation jointly organised by police and the National Crime Agency have been released on bail.

A police spokesman said eight packets of suspected benzocaine - a "cutting agent" used to bulk out cocaine and amphetamine - were seized.

The men, aged 22 and 27, were arrested at separate addresses in north Belfast.

The packets contained 45kg of suspected benzocaine.

Although benzocaine is a legal substance, it is illegal to supply it to the underground drugs trade.

The drug is used legitimately in the UK as a dental anaesthetic and as an ingredient in first aid ointments, throat sprays and sunburn remedies.

But drug dealers like to use it in powder form to dilute pure class A and class B drugs such as naphyrone and mephedrone because of the numbing sensation it offers when placed on the skin.

Detective Inspector Andy Dunlop of the PSNI Organised Crime Branch said the loss of that amount of benzocaine would have caused "significant disruption to an organised criminal gang".

"I am unaware of any legitimate use for benzocaine in this powder form. Our view is that anyone who orders, accepts or receives it, will be arrested and will be presented to the courts," he said.