A boat carrying over three tonnes of cocaine has been intercepted at sea in what is believed to be the largest class-A drug seizure in UK history. The drugs with a street value of over £500m were recovered from the MV Hamal in the North Sea, in a joint operation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA), Border Force and Royal Navy.
The MV Hamal was intercepted about 100 miles east of Aberdeen by Royal Navy frigate HMS Somerset and Border Force cutter Valiant, the National Crime Agency revealed. The Hamal had a nine-man crew on board, all Turkish nationals aged between 26 and 63 – they have since been charged with drug offences.
John McGowan – senior investigating officer for the NCA, 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 cooperation between the NCA, Border Force, the Royal Navy, plus the French DNRED and our other international partners.
In 2011, £300m worth of cocaine was seized from a yacht in Southampton, the biggest ever drugs haul of its kind at the time. On that occasion, the drugs were so well concealed on board that it took the search team almost a week to find them – six men said to be members of an international crime gang were arrested as a result.
While we don’t condone the smuggling of illegal contraband of any sort, it is easy to see how a massive pay-day like this might tempt someone.