This is a Breaking News Story.

Nine people have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and money laundering following a Cleveland Police operation across three police force areas this morning.

Operation Exmouth is part of a two-year intensive investigation and today’s strike day saw addresses in Cleveland, Northumbria and Greater Manchester visited by police.

In July 2017 two cell searches were carried out within HMP Holme House in Stockton. During the course of the search in excess of 6kg of ‘Spice’, a Class B controlled drug was found, which was valued at £750,000.00. 156 tablets – identified as Oxandrolone which is a Class C drug and documentation related to suspected drug activity was also recovered.

As a result of this investigation, properties were targeted today in Skelton, Grangetown and Hardwick in Cleveland, Easington Lane, Ashington, and Blakelaw in the Northumbria area and Cheetham Street and Oldham Road in Manchester.

Four women were arrested (ages 29, 31, 39 and 45) and five men (ages 29,29, 31, 39 and 53) and all remain in police custody.

The work is taking place under the overall banner of Operation Sentinel, which sees police forces across the North East working together to disrupt and prevent serious and organised crime.

Detective Inspector Tony Cross said “Operation Exmouth is the first of its kind for Cleveland Police in that it is the first time that we have conducted such a large scale operation focused solely on the supply of Spice and other associated drugs.

“This arrest activity today has been part of a two-year complex investigation and has only been achieved through joint working between the police, Her Majesty’s Prison Service and other partner agencies. Throughout this time, we have also strengthened our working practices and intelligence sharing with our partner agencies to reduce the likelihood of drugs being accessible in the prison environment.

“The recovery within Holme House in 2017 was significant and this operation today shows the efforts that go into bringing suspected drug networks to justice.

“We welcome and will act upon any intelligence received from the public in order to tackle serious and organised crime and protect the public from harm.”

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