More than three tons of cocaine has been found aboard an ocean going tug intercepted by UK forces in the North Sea last week, according to an update from the UK National Crime Agency (NCA).
The seizure is believed to be biggest single seizure of illegal drugs in UK history, worth an estimated half a billion pounds, the NCA said.
Working on intelligence supplied by the NCA, the tug, identified as 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, April 23..
The vessel was then taken to Aberdeen harbour where extensive search of vessel uncovered the massive haul.
The NCA said that the cocaine found has an estimated total weight in excess of three tons which, if cut and sold in the UK, would have a potential street value £500 million.
“The search of this vessel has been lengthy and painstaking, undertaken by hugely skilled specialists working in difficult conditions,” said John McGowan, a Scotland-based senior investigating officer for the NCA. “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,” McGowan added.
The nine-man crew of the Tanzania-flagged Hamal, all Turkish nationals aged between 26 and 63, have been charged with drug trafficking offenses. They appeared before Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Monday 27 April where they were remanded in custody until their next appearance on May 5th.
“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,” McGowen said.