(London) More than three tonnes of cocaine has now been recovered from an ocean going tug intercepted following a joint NCA, Border Force and Royal Navy operation in the North Sea.
Acting on intelligence supplied by the NCA, the MV Hamal was intercepted by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Somerset and Border Force cutter Valiant about 100 miles east of Aberdeen on Thursday 23 April.
The operation was conducted following close cooperation with the French customs investigation service DNRED and in coordination with the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) plus the Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) based in Lisbon.
The vessel was taken to Aberdeen harbour where a search began led by Border Force officers with specialist deep rummage skills, with operational support from Police Scotland.
The cocaine had an estimated total weight in excess of three tonnes which, if cut and sold in the UK, could have had a likely potential street value of more than £500 million, depending on purity.
John McGowan, senior investigating officer for the NCA, based at the Scottish Crime Campus, Gartcosh, said:
“The search of this vessel has been lengthy and painstaking, undertaken by hugely skilled specialists working in difficult conditions.
“The result is this massive discovery – believed to be the biggest single class A drug seizure on record in the UK, and likely to be worth several hundred million pounds.
“Our investigation continues, but the operation was only possible thanks to the close co-operation between the NCA, Border Force, the Royal Navy, plus the French DNRED and our other international partners. The extensive operation in Aberdeen was given substantial support from Police Scotland.”
The nine-man crew of the Hamal, all Turkish nationals aged between 26 and 63, have been charged with drug trafficking offences. They appeared before Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Monday 27 April where they were remanded in custody until their next appearance on Tuesday 5 May.