NINE more people have been charged as part of a major operation aimed at tackling illegal drug supply.

The latest arrests, as part of Operation Florence, took place at addresses in the North West and South West of England over the last four weeks.

Earlier this year the Lancashire Telegraph reported how 18 people had been arrested and charged as part of the same operation which saw a firearm seized from a luxurious property in Marbella, Spain.

As well as arresting some suspects on their return from Spain, officers have recovered a large amount of cash and cannabis, as well as a disguised firearm.

On July 2, a raid was carried out at an address in Darwen and a 21-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of a drug supply offence.

Ten days later a German national was detained entering the UK but has since been released under investigation.

On July 20, officers arrested a man in Ellesmere Port in connection with the importation of cocaine and cannabis from Spain into East Lancashire

Two days later search warrants were executed in Darwen and three men were arrested in connection with the investigation. Cannabis and cutting agent were also recovered.

On the same day a man was arrested in a hotel room in Plymouth after recently returning from Spain on suspicion of a drug supply offence.

On August 4, searches were executed at addresses in Swinton and Westhoughton in the Bolton area and cannabis and £40,000 in cash were recovered.

Two days later a man was arrested in Blackburn.

Sgt Stu Peall, from the East Exploitation Team, said: “I am pleased we have managed to secure further charges as part of this extensive and complex investigation. We are committed to tackling and disrupting drug-dealing activity and protecting vulnerable members of society. This operation was launched directly on the back of concerns raised by members of the public and I would encourage anyone concerned about criminal activity in their area to contact the police, knowing that we will act on that information and take the appropriate action.”

The latest charges are:

n Jessica Humphreys, 21, of Dominica Avenue, Darwen, and Liam Martyn, 27, of Barnes Avenue, Dronfield, have been charged with conspiring to supply cannabis.

n Mark Hopwood, 28, of Shephard Close, Ellesmere Port; Shaheed Virmani, 27, of Warren Drive, Manchester; and George Lodge, 18, of Perry Street, Darwen, have been charged with conspiring to supply cocaine and cannabis. Lodge has also been charged with possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.

n Scott McKenna, 27, of Hazel Avenue, Darwen; Kieren McKenna, 35, of Griffin Close, Burnley; and Sean McKenna, 38, of Cobden Street, Darwen, have been charged with conspiring to supply cocaine.

n William Greenall, 23, of Silverdale Close, Blackburn, have been charged with possession with intent to supply cannabis, supplying cannabis, possession of a disguised firearm and arranging or facilitating the travel of another person with a view to exploitation.

Sean McKenna was due to appear before at Blackburn magistrates, while the other eight defendants are due to appear at Preston Crown Court next month.