Guilty verdicts after UK’s biggest ever cocaine seizure

The captain and first officer of an ocean going tug boat have been found guilty of drug trafficking following the biggest ever UK seizure of class A drugs.

The cocaine, with an estimated potential street value of £512 million (US$675 million) once adulterated, was found hidden on board the Tanzanian-flagged ‘Hamal’ in April 2015. The total weight of the cocaine taken off the ‘Hamal’ was in excess of 3.2 tonnes.

The vessel had been intercepted by the Royal Navy destroyer HMS ‘Somerset’ and Border Force cutter HMC ‘Valiant’ in the North Sea approximately 87 nautical miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire.

A deck log and engine log books stated that the tug had spent time in West Africa after leaving Turkey. It had in fact travelled across the Atlantic, arriving in Georgetown, Guyana, on March 21.

It left five days later but paused its journey for around 12 to 15 hours around two days after leaving port. This is where investigators believe the drugs were loaded on.

Officers recovered a coded satellite phone email from the vessel, containing a series of numbers. When checked against a key found in a notebook on board, this corresponded with coordinates for a location in the North Sea, north of the Dutch/German border, where investigators believe the drugs would have been offloaded.

Following a 12-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow, ship captain Mumin Sahin and first mate Emin Ozmen were found guilty of two counts of drug trafficking. Charges against four crew members were found not proven. Three others had been acquitted earlier in the proceedings.

They will be sentenced on August 12.