Practical Boat Owner: Around 300 kilos of cocaine was discovered at Portsmouth, concealed within a shipment of bananas which had originated in Colombia.
Cocaine with a likely UK street value in excess of £40 million has been seized following an operation involving the National Crime Agency, Border Force and the Irish Garda. The drugs were seized following the search of the cargo vessel Star Stratos at Portsmouth port yesterday evening (Monday 1 December).
Approximately 300 kilos were discovered concealed within a shipment of bananas which had originated in Colombia. Investigations are continuing both in the UK and Ireland in conjunction with An Garda Síochána.
Deputy director Tom Dowdall, from the National Crime Agency’s Border Policing Command, said: “Working with our law enforcement partners in the UK and Ireland we have successfully prevented a huge quantity of what is likely to be very high purity cocaine reaching our streets. Our investigations into the organised crime groups likely to be responsible for this shipment continues.”
“This seizure once again demonstrates the international reach of the NCA and the impact we are having on the criminal networks involved in drug trafficking.”
Border Force Regional Director Carole Upshall said: “Border Force officers are on the front line of the fight to stop illegal drugs like cocaine making it on to the UK’s streets and causing harm to our communities. Working with the NCA we are determined to do all we can to tackle traffickers and the criminal groups behind smuggling.”
This is the second joint operation between the NCA and An Garda Síochána which has resulted in a huge cocaine seizure in less than three months.
In September around a tonne of cocaine was seized by the Irish Naval Service from the yacht Makayabella around 300 miles off the south west coast of Ireland.
The NCA has over 300 border investigators at major ports, investigating detections of drugs, firearms, cash and other non-fiscal crime made by Border Force. The Border Policing Command also has an extensive overseas network of around 120 officers covering over 150 countries around the world.
Practical Boat Owner: Royal Navy warship HMS Argyll has dealt a third blow to smugglers after seizing more than 850kg of cocaine in a high speed midnight chase across the Caribbean.
It is the third drugs bust for HMS Argyll in as many months with this latest haul having a wholesale value of £36million, in total she has now seized 1,600kg of cocaine with a combined value of more than £68million.
Secretary of state for Defence Michael Fallon said: ‘HMS Argyll has had phenomenal success in disrupting the drugs trade which continues to blight the UK. Her crew are doing outstanding and demanding work, and the British people will rightly be proud of, and grateful for, their professionalism and commitment. He added: ‘Thanks to them, drugs destined for our streets never reach our shores.’
HMS Argyll apprehended the suspect vessel after being alerted by a US customs aircraft, which directed the ship to intercept. The Plymouth-based frigate was pushed to maximum speed and quickly closed the 70 mile gap.
After a high speed chase, during which time the smugglers began to throw their illegal cargo overboard, the warship used high tech radar to guide her small patrol boats which surrounded the smugglers and forced them to surrender.
Lieutenant Matthew Turner, who was in charge of the Bridge at the time of the chase, said: ‘It was an intense couple of hours as we were trying to out-think and out-manoeuvre a small boat which can change direction in an instant.’
As part of her counter narcotics operations, and reflecting the commitment of the UK to work with partner nations, HMS Argyll carries a US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET).
To conduct a board and search of a suspect vessel, members of the LEDET and the ship’s crew are launched together in the ship’s boats. In recent weeks HMS Argyll has provided assistance to Bermuda in the wake of Hurricane Gonzalo, conducted two further counter-narcotics seizure and hosted His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in Colombia.
Yachting & Boating World: Authorities have seized 250 kilos of cocaine in the Caribbean that was bound for the UK. Two sailors from Jersey have been arrested after £40m worth of cocaine was seized from their yacht in the Caribbean.
In a joint operation by the National Crime Agency (NCA), Metropolitan Police and the French Authorities on Monday, the vessel was intercepted and the pair arrested.
Officials say the two men, aged 57 and 42, had been attempting to bring the drugs to the UK and will now face prosecution by the French authorities.
The UK-registered vessel SY Hygeia of Hasla was boarded by the French Customs Coast Guard off Martinique as it began a transatlantic crossing.
Monday’s drug bust was the result of an investigation into a London-based crime group, with connections to the Caribbean, suspected of importing large quantities of class A drugs.
The NCA’s head of international operations Hank Cole, said: “The NCA used its international reach and worked with partners in the UK and abroad to track this vessel. Together we have stopped a huge consignment of cocaine close to source.
“We have no doubt that without this intervention the drugs would have ended up on the streets of the UK where, after being cut, they would have had a likely potential value of £30-40 million. Our investigation into the organised crime network involved in this attempt continues.”
This latest seizure of class A drugs bound for the UK is the second in recent months, with around a tonne of cocaine being seized by the Irish Naval Service on 23 September.
Detective superintendent Neil Thompson said: “Working alongside the NCA, it is clear that the drugs recovered would have been distributed throughout the streets of London and beyond, generating further criminality and fuelling gang activity.
“These arrests show that there is no criminal out there that is beyond our reach – if you deal in drugs in any scale we will find you, we will arrest you and you will face the consequences of your actions.”
Yachting & Boating World: A man has admitted to being involved in a plot to smuggle £100m worth of cocaine into the UK using a yacht.
A man who was charged with conspiracy to import cocaine into the UK pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court on Monday. Stephen Powell, one of six men arrested over the drug smuggling plot, appeared via video link from prison to make his plea after officials seized around a tonne of cocaine on board a yacht Makayabella last month.
The Garda Siochana in Ireland also charged the 47-year-old’s father, John Powell, along with Benjamin Mellor and Thomas Britteon with possessing cocaine with intent to import after they were detained onboard. All three men have appeared at Cork District Court in Ireland.
This latest development comes almost three weeks after the 60ft yacht carrying the drugs was intercepted by Irish Defence Forces around 200 miles south west of Mizen Head.
A successful mission was completed based on intelligence provided by the National Crime Agency in the UK and the French customs service DNRED. Investigators also seized a 25ft motorboat Sea Breeze, moored in north Wales as part of their enquiries.
Two other men, a 43-year-old and a 29-year-old, have also been arrested in connection with a police investigation.
Judge Peter Collier told Mr Powell following his plea: “Stephen Powell, you have pleaded guilty to this very serious offence and obviously you will be receiving, in due course, a significant custodial sentence.”
Mr Powell will appear at a further hearing in early December.
A 29-year-old man from Leeds arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) yesterday in connection with a suspected plot to smuggle cocaine on a yacht has been bailed pending further enquiries.
Additionally, a 55-year-old woman arrested at an address in West Yorkshire as part of the same investigation has also been bailed.
In total seven people have been arrested in connection with the seizure of one tonne of cocaine, made by the Irish Naval Service on board the yacht Makayabella on 23 September.
A 43-year-old man arrested by the NCA at an address in Leeds last Wednesday, 24 September, was subsequently bailed pending further enquiries.
Stephen Powell, 47, of Netherfield Road, Guisely was charged and appeared before Leeds Magistrates on Saturday. He was remanded in custody until Monday 13 October when he is due to appear at Leeds Crown Court.
One tonne of the Class A drug cocaine was seized from a 62ft yacht off the coast of Ireland on 23 September, which had been sailed from the Carribbean.
If cut and sold in the UK, this drug haul would have a street value in excess of £100million.
Three crew members, all from West Yorkshire – John Powell, aged 70, of Airedale Mews, Silsden; Benjamin, Mellor, aged 35, of Mornington Villas, Bradford; and Thomas Britteon, aged 28, of Convamore Road, Grimsby – were detained and questioned by Ireland’s national police service An Garda Síochána.
All three have been charged with possessing cocaine with intent to import.
On 26 September, a 25ft motorboat called Sea Breeze was seized by NCA officers from a marina in Pwllheli, North Wales and forensically examined. Investigators believe the motorboat was to be used to meet up with the yacht Makayabella in the Atlantic.
NCA branch commander David Norris, who is leading the investigation, said: ‘This has been a complex and fast moving investigation, involving law enforcement agencies in the UK, Ireland, Europe and South America.
‘Our enquiries are continuing.’