SEVEN men and four women were arrested in dawn raids by police investigating alleged drug and money-laundering.

Officers executed warrants today (Tuesday, April 29) at addresses in Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside, County Durham, and in the Thames Valley area.

The men and women, who are aged 25 to 46, are being held at Gateshead, Peterlee and High Wycombe police stations for questioning.

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Officers from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) supported by officers from the Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham forces, took part in Operation Shoomaker, an investigation into North-East organised crime groups that have links to other force areas.

They were helped by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit in the Thames Valley area.

North East Regional Specialist Operations Unit Detective Inspector Paul Colling said: "Today's operation has been planned for some time and these arrests send a clear message to those involved in the supply of illegal controlled drugs.

“Illegal drugs cause misery to our communities and we will seek to disrupt the suppliers wherever we can.

"Organised Crime Groups make huge financial gain from dealing in hard drugs that in the long term cause misery by creating financial problems and health risks for the members of our communities, targeting and disrupting these types of groups is one of the main priorities for NERSOU and we will continue to do so and seek to strip those convicted of their criminally gained assets."