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Police raids target metal 'thieves'

A bronze Chinese dragon statue weighing more than a tonne was among a large haul of suspected stolen objects seized by police during a raid at a scrap metal business, Scotland Yard has said.

The £3,500 ornament, which was stolen from a residential back garden, was recovered along with a bronze statue of Christ, about 150 memorial plaques taken from churches and crematoriums, copper cabling and £20,000 in cash.

Police swooped on the dealer's yard in south-west London earlier this week as part of the force's latest crackdown on the illegal scrap metal trade being increasingly exploited by organised criminal networks.

A series of scrap metal yards were targeted by officers across the capital on Monday and Tuesday, resulting in 10 arrests and a number of stolen cars being recovered by the Met.

Police identified that about 40 plaques recovered from the yard had been stolen from a Beckenham crematorium. Each is estimated to be worth £50-100 each.

The distinctive bronze dragon statue, which was set in concrete and one of a pair, was also traced to a couple who had reported it stolen from their home in Teddington.

Two metal cutting machines were also found at the business as police executed a search warrant. The owner of the yard and an employee have been charged in connection with the raid.

Meanwhile, four men wearing BT high-visibility vests have been arrested after being spotted by a member of the public dragging around 450 metres of cable down a street in Barnet. The suspected thieves, who produced apparent BT related job sheet documents and passes, were later bailed.

Referring to the large haul of seized goods, acting Inspector James Coomber, the operation co-ordinator, said: "This represents a significant find in our ongoing efforts to target metal theft.

"The majority of scrap metal dealers who are legitimate support our targeting of those acting outside of the law. Those contributing to the thriving illegal trade can expect regular operations to search, detect and arrest those profiting from it."

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