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BEIJING (AP) — Chinese police worked with authorities from Hong Kong, Peru and Australia in foiling an international drug smuggling plot, resulting in the seizure of 117 kilograms (257 pounds) of cocaine, the head of the country’s drug enforcement agency said Wednesday.

The Nov. 18 operation led to the arrests of six suspects, including two from Russia, one from India, one from Spain and one from Hong Kong, head of the Narcotics Control Bureau Liang Yun told reporters, hailing iy as a sign of China’s growing cooperation in international anti-drug efforts.

China has strict anti-drug laws and has cracked down heavily on domestic production. However, rising affluence has made it a growing market for imported narcotics, such as cocaine.

The case shows the drug problem is growing “increasingly severe” in both the region and globally, Liang told reporters. However, the successful operation shows the “high expertise of Chinese drug enforcement agencies in combatting maritime drug trafficking crimes,” he said.

The cocaine had been stored aboard the freighter South Wisdom that sailed from South America and arrived in the northeastern Chinese city of Tangshan on July 25, Liang said. Though members of the gang traveled to the city, they were unable to unload the drugs, after which a search turned up 22.3 kilograms (49 pounds) of cocaine, he said.

Following a trip to Shanghai for maintenance, the ship returned to Tangshan where a further search turned up 94.6 kilograms (209 pounds) of cocaine hidden behind a panel in the steering department. The six suspects were caught while making a second attempt to retrieve the illicit cargo.

Liang also introduced three other cases of drug seizures at sea, including one on Jan. 24 in which the crew set their boat on fire as coast guard vessels appeared, in an apparent attempt to destroy the evidence.

Police boarded the burning boat, arrested the crew and towed it to port where inspections found it had been carrying approximately 1 ton of methamphetamine, Liang said.