West air crew instrumental in £100million cocaine seizure
A Westcountry helicopter crew has played a central role in the seizure of £100million worth of cocaine in the Caribbean.
HMS Lancaster made the bust after the boat - concealed by a tarpaulin - was spotted by a US Customs and Border Agency aircraft in the Caribbean Sea.
The frigate sped to the area and launched her Lynx helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton and high-speed pursuit boat to intercept the 30ft vessel with three suspected smugglers on board.
As Lancaster approached, the men attempted to dispose of the evidence by throwing the drugs overboard, but these were quickly recovered by divers.
Sign up NOW for a 6 week training program starting in January 2014 and get a 30% discount!
Start a fresh in 2014 with a Personal Trainer! I come to you and design a program to achieve your goals!!
Terms: Within the Mid-North Devon Region. One Voucher per person.
Contact: 07855 055 682
Valid until: Friday, January 31 2014
A total of 22 bales of pure cocaine - weighing in at 680kg - were seized along with the three men on board.
The drugs were estimated to have a street value of £100million.
The men on board were said to “ultimately” have been “fully compliant” with the Royal Navy and US Coastguard team.
The suspected smugglers and cocaine were then handed over to the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo and then the authorities in Puerto Rico.
According to standard practice, the empty drugs boat was subsequently sunk by Royal Navy gunfire to prevent its use in future smuggling operations.
HMS Lancaster’s Commanding Officer, Commander Steve Moorhouse, said: “This is a great result not only for Lancaster but also everyone involved in the multi-national effort to stem the flow of drugs in the region.
“My ship’s company can be incredibly proud of what they have achieved, their professionalism and teamwork continue to shine, and our close relationship with our partner nations and law enforcement agencies is proving to be hugely successful.”
This is the ship’s third success in as many weeks and follows on from the seizure of a shipment of marijuana with a street value of up to £700,000 and the stopping of another craft with a significant amount of cocaine and heroine on board.
Able Seaman James Duffy, the coxswain of one of Lancaster’s sea boats, said: “We have all trained really hard to get where we are and have a fantastic relationship with the US coast guard guys.
“It is an amazing feeling to get such a great bust and stop millions of pounds worth of cocaine hitting the streets.”
HMS Lancaster is on patrol with a team from the US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment who provide intelligence in catching drug runners, as part of a multi-national effort to combat drug smuggling in the Caribbean.
The Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate is on her second counter narcotics patrol of the Caribbean region and will continue to combat the illicit smuggling of drugs until the end of the year.
These patrols are part of Operation Martillo, a 15-nation collaborative effort to deny transnational criminal organisations air and maritime access to the littoral regions of Central America; and focus on putting a stop to the illegal movement of drugs from South America into the Caribbean and onwards to the UK.
Over the past year the US Coast Guard has seized 20,500kg of cocaine and 8,500lbs of marijuana during 22 law enforcement interceptions.
Counter narcotic operations with the USA and other partner nations is one of a range of tasks HMS Lancaster is conducting across the Caribbean in support of British interests.
Others include providing reassurance and security for British Overseas Territories and the provision of humanitarian aid and disaster relief during the core hurricane season.