A major operation involving the National Crime Agency has the resulted in the seizure of 4.2 tonnes of cocaine that was destined for Europe.

Fishing vessel in the seaWorking with European partners as part of an investigation started last year, the NCA developed intelligence leading to the identification of a fishing vessel that was carrying the drugs.

On Sunday 17 January a French naval vessel operating out of Martinique intercepted and boarded the boat in international waters east of Barbados.

The high-purity drugs found on board would likely have had a street value of several hundred million pounds to criminal networks in Europe.

The boat and her eight crew were apprehended and handed over to administrative and judicial authorities. 

Fishing vessel being searched

Officers from the NCA’s international network shared intelligence and coordinated the deployment of law enforcement and military assets, working closely with international partners through the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC-N) in Lisbon.

Cocaine package being opened by an officer

Deputy Director Tom Dowdall, head of NCA International, said:

“The role played by the NCA in identifying and locating the vessel was critical to the success of the operation.

“Through MAOC-N we were then able to ensure that the boat was intercepted by our partners, in this case the French Navy.

“Working with our European partners we have stopped a huge haul of drugs from making it onto the European market, and I’ve no doubt some of that would have ended up in the UK in the hands of criminal gangs also engaged in violence and exploitation.

“A seizure of this size will have a dramatic impact on the organised crime groups involved, and deprive them of huge profits.”

28 January 2021