Royal Navy seizes £81 million in cocaine in three drug busts

HMS Medway (foreground) and RFA Argus (Photo: Royal Navy)

A Royal Navy task group has landed a significant blow against drug traffickers in the Caribbean after seizing cocaine that would be worth an estimated £81 million (US$103 million) on Britain’s streets.

Sailors, Royal Marines, and a US Coast Guard team on board the support ship RFA Argus hauled 11 bales of cocaine weighing 358 kilograms in the first of three busts in seven days.

The patrol ship HMS Medway and its embarked US Coast Guard team followed that up by catching traffickers in two interceptions inside 24 hours in the Caribbean Sea, which saw 650 kilograms of cocaine seized.

Together, the British and American team’s haul is worth a combined £81 million, according to figures calculated by the National Crime Agency.

In the first success, an American maritime patrol aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel riding low in the water and reported it to Argus, which immediately changed course to investigate.

The 28,000-tonne vessel used squalls as cover to stay out of sight and avoid raising suspicion while a boarding team of Royal Marines and US Coast Guard personnel prepared to strike.

On approaching the target craft, the Royal Marines were spotted and the suspect vessel’s crew started to throw their illegal cargo overboard.

The crew of the intercepted vessel were brought back to Argus along with their seized cargo before being transferred to US Coast Guard cutter Spencer. The suspect boat was later sunk.

A few days later, the offshore patrol ship Medway acted on reports of a suspicious go-fast, diverting course and launching sea boats piloted by Royal Navy sailors with a US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) team aboard.

Sixteen bales of cocaine and three detainees were captured in the first boarding.

Just one day later, more information was fed to Medway and the ship gave chase to another craft, landing a further nine bales and three more detainees.

Those detainees and the seized drugs have now been handed over to US authorities allowing Medway to resume patrols of the region.

Argus and Medway are deployed to the Caribbean as part of a Royal Navy task group. They are in the region to support island communities during hurricane season, but also to carry out maritime security and counter-narcotics operations in collaboration with the UK National Crime Agency in the fight against serious organised crime.

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