Two elderly British cruise passengers were arrested after cocaine was reportedly found in their bags on a ship.

The couple, 70 and 72, were being held on suspicion of international drug smuggling after their cabin was searched when the Cruise & Maritime Voyages ship Marco Polo arrived in Lisbon from the Caribbean en-route to London.

Police said they found 9kg of cocaine hidden in false bottoms in four cases following a tip-off from the UK’s National Crime Agency, The Sun reported.

The value of the haul was put at £2 million by the newspaper although The Times reported to figure to be about £500,000.

The man and woman, who have not been named, appeared in front of a judge yesterday in a closed hearing.

Vitor Ananais, who led the operation for Portugal’s Policia Judiciaria, was reported as saying: “The man and the woman are English although they don’t live in England but in another European country.

“We knew who we were looking for and boarded the cruise ship with a search warrant. We believe the couple were given the drugs in a Caribbean island.

“We do not know for sure where the cocaine was going to be brought ashore.

“The couple were not at all showy and blended in well because most of the other passengers on the liner were elderly.”

The 33-night cruise left London’s Tilbury docks on November 5 with 610 passengers.

A Portuguese police source told The Times: “They had boarded the cruise liner when it docked at the island of St Lucia in the Caribbean. That is where the drugs were brought [on board].

“Each of the pensioners paid €3,000 for their ticket. Police arrested them in their cabin. The couple allegedly both have criminal records from Britain but it is not clear for what.”

The police source said that drugs gangs sometimes try to plant cocaine or other illegal substances on elderly people during cruises so that they act as unwitting mules.

However, it has also been known for pensioners to smuggle drugs in return for a large payment from traffickers.

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