A joint police operation has led to 16 Brazilian students being arrested on the Gold Coast for importing cocaine.

Authorities have warned foreign students to avoid lucrative offers to smuggle drugs following the arrests of several Brazilians for allegedly importing cocaine.

Six students who were allegedly used as mules by an international drug syndicate have been arrested in the past 12 months as part of Operation Lima Exposure.

The investigation, involving state and federal authorities, was wrapped up by Queensland Police on Wednesday after search warrants were executed across the Gold Coast, resulting in two further arrests.

All up, the operation, which began in November 2012, has resulted in 16 arrests and the seizure of more than 14 kilograms of cocaine believed to be worth about $5 million.

Police believe the students were given financial incentives to travel from Brazil to Australia carrying a suitcase containing concealed drugs.

They were caught at Sydney and Brisbane airports, all with the same type of suitcase, which customs officials had been alerted to watch out for.

“It was certainly very professionally done,” Detective Senior Sergeant David Hutchinson told reporters. “The drugs were very well hidden.”

Ten other people allegedly involved in the syndicate have been arrested, while the Australian Federal Police hopes to release arrest warrants for several Brazilian nationals who are no longer in Australia.

Det Snr Sgt Hutchinson said the operation was being wound up because police were confident the organisation had been halted.

“This particular syndicate has been disrupted and dismantled,” Det Snr Sgt Hutchinson said.

“Certainly, cocaine is a drug of choice on the Gold Coast along with amphetamines, but the result of these operations will certainly have an impact on the availability of cocaine on the Gold Coast.”

Det Snr Sgt Hutchinson said police and customs officials would speak to educational institutions on the Gold Coast to try to deter Brazilian students being lured into similar schemes.