Huge haul of cocaine seized from yacht in Cornwall

21 July 2018

Two Dutch men have been charged following the discovery of a huge haul of cocaine from a yacht intercepted off the coast of Cornwall.

As part of an operation led by the National Crime Agency, the Border Force cutter HMC Vigilant intercepted the Dutch-flagged SY Marcia approximately 120 miles south west of the Cornish coast on Wednesday 18 July.

The operation also involved the National Maritime Intelligence Centre (NMIC) in the UK and the joint Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon, working in co-operation with law enforcement partners in Portugal, Spain, France and the Netherlands.

The Marcia was then escorted into Newlyn harbour near Penzance by the Border Force cutter on Thursday 19 July and a search of the vessel began.

Officers discovered bales of cocaine wrapped in plastic bagging in a compartment beneath the decking area at the rear of the boat. 

At one point on Friday the search was halted following the discovery of a suspicious package, but then resumed after the all clear was given by a Navy EOD team.

An estimated two tonnes has been recovered from the vessel and searches are ongoing. NCA, Border Force and Devon and Cornwall Police officers remain on the scene.

The two crew members, Maarten Peter Pieterse, 59, and Emile Adriaan Jeroen Schoemaker, 44, were arrested and have since been charged with drug importation offences.

Both men appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court this morning (Saturday 21 July) via video link. Pieterse did not enter a plea, whilst Schoemaker pleaded not guilty. They have been remanded in custody and are due to appear at Bristol Crown Court on 20 August 2018.

NCA regional head of investigations Andy Quinn said:

“Intercepting this vessel took international co-operation and I’d like to pay tribute to all those involved, not least our Border Force colleagues who located and boarded the boat and then brought it back into port to be searched.

“This is a huge haul of class A drugs, one of the largest seizures of class A ever in the UK, and with a potential street value likely to be in the hundreds of millions.

“The criminal trade in drugs is driven by financial gain, and the loss of the profit that would have been made from this seizure will be a major hit to the international criminal networks involved.

“While the end destination is unclear at this stage, I’ve no doubt that this was destined for the European market. At least a proportion of this cocaine would have ended up here in the UK, sold by drugs gangs who are also involved in intimidation, exploitation and violence.

“The NCA continues to provide a key role in tackling organised criminal networks supplying class A drugs into the UK, and our work with partners at home and abroad to tackle the supply chain is vital to this.”

Rod Lowson, head of Border Force’s Border Protection Squadron, said:

"This is a major seizure, one of the largest detections of cocaine ever made in the UK and a testament to the multi-agency approach we take to secure the UK's border and territorial waters.

"That collaboration with the NCA and international partners, combined with excellent work from the crew of the Vigilant and officers from our specialist deep rummage team ensured that the SY Marcia’s £X million cargo did not reach its intended destination.

"Working together, we will continue to do all we can to put the organised crime groups involved in drug smuggling behind bars.”

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