29 June 2017
An international operation involving the National Crime Agency has led to the discovery of a huge haul of uncut South American cocaine on a fishing boat in Belgium.
The MV Bounty II, which had been monitored by law enforcement as it sailed up the English Channel, was intercepted by Belgian and Dutch forces on Thursday 22 June and escorted into the port of Ostend.
After they spent two days searching the boat, specialist officers from the NCA and Border Force National Deep Rummage Team were deployed to Belgium to assist the effort. They played a key role in locating the drugs, concealed within a double wall on the boat. 64 bales (right) of high-purity cocaine were recovered, weighing around 1.5 tonnes.
In the UK the haul would have a wholesale value of around £50 million, but once adulterated and sold on the streets could have been worth three or four times that. Belgian prosecutors claim the street value would be around £200 million.
The four crew members, three Dutch and one Belgian, were arrested by the Belgian Federal Police and will be prosecuted.
Chris Farrimond, head of International for the NCA, said:
“This is the latest in a series of huge drug seizures involving the NCA in recent months, and it demonstrates how we are taking the fight to the international criminal networks who deal in drug trafficking.
“There is no doubt that a proportion of this cocaine would have ended up in the UK, where mortality rates from drug use are at an all time high.
“The organised crime groups associated with cocaine supply are very often violent and exploitative, linked to the use of firearms and knives and the exploitation of young and vulnerable people.
“By cutting off these shipments we have undoubtedly protected the public and cut off a revenue stream that would have been re-invested in further criminality.”
Paul Tunney, from the Border Force National Deep Rummage Team, said:
“This impressive seizure is yet another example of our world class teams in action. Our cutter fleet tracked the vessel from the mid Atlantic before officers from our highly skilled Border Force search team helped find the drugs, which had been hidden deep inside the fishing trawler.
“By sharing expertise in this way, and working with law enforcement partners at home and abroad, they have prevented dangerous Class A drugs from reaching our streets.”
Only last week the NCA revealed details of a series of massive drug seizures in the Atlantic and Mediteranean which had netted more than ten tonnes of class A drugs in ten months.