Royal Navy scores £120 million cocaine bust in Caribbean

Photo: Royal Navy

The Royal Navy has now had seven successful drugs busts in as many weeks in the Caribbean, preventing more than a third of a billion pounds worth of drugs reaching the open market.

The latest seizures involve over a tonne of cocaine that was taken into custody by the support ship RFA Argus after it successfully intercepted traffickers on two separate occasions.

The seized narcotics have a total estimated street value of £120 million (US$159 million).

During the first incident, the drug runners dumped their entire cargo overboard, while in the second more than one tonne of cocaine was either recovered from the sea or the boat which the traffickers were using.

In the more recent bust, which resulted in a haul of 1,085 kilograms of cocaine, Argus launched one of its helicopters to search for a suspected drug runner.

The helicopter aircrew quickly found the boat and gave chase, catching it and forcing it to stop before a boat carrying Royal Marines and a US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) team arrived and the suspect craft was boarded and searched.

Packages of drugs had been thrown overboard during the chase, so a second helicopter and another boat were launched by Argus to recover the discarded bags.

A few days earlier, one of Argus‘ helicopters pounced on another speedboat whose crew threw packages of drugs overboard as they tried to outrun the pursuing aircraft.

The traffickers accepted they were unable to avoid capture as the Royal Marines and the US Coast Guard closed in on them, boarded their boat, and took control. It is estimated the suspects had off-loaded approximately half a tonne of cocaine.

The captured smugglers were handed to a nearby US Coast Guard cutter before Argus continued its Caribbean patrol, leading a Royal Navy task group which also includes the patrol ship HMS Medway.

The two busts took place before Argus was despatched to Honduras to support relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Eta.

See all the other news, reviews and features of this month’s Maritime Security Week right here.

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