7 November 2014
A UK-bound yacht carrying an estimated 250 kilos of cocaine has been intercepted in the Caribbean, following a joint operation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA), Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the French authorities.
The UK-registered vessel SY Hygeia of Halsa was boarded by French Customs Coast Guard off Martinique on Monday 3 November as it began a trans-Atlantic crossing.
Two men – aged 57 and 42 and both from Jersey – were arrested and now face prosecution by the French authorities.
The operation followed an investigation by the MPS and NCA into a London-based organised crime group, with connections to the Caribbean, suspected of being involved in the large-scale importation of class A drugs.
NCA officers liaised with the French Customs and police investigation services DNRED and OCRTIS to make the seizure.
International law enforcement partners in Venezuela, the Eastern Caribbean, Jamaica and the USA were also closely involved in tracking the vessel and members of the UK crime group.
Hank Cole, the NCA’s head of international operations, 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.”
Detective Superintendent Neil Thompson, from the MPS Organised Crime Command, 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."
This is the second significant seizure of class A drugs on a sailing vessel destined for the UK in recent weeks.
On 23 September around a tonne of cocaine was seized by the Irish Naval Service acting on information supplied by the NCA.
The NCA works in close coordination on matters of maritime security with the UK's National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) and the European Maritime Analysis Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon, Portugal.
- Photos of the operation are available on the NCA's Flickr channel