US Coast Guard, Royal Navy seize US$46 million in cocaine in separate operations in Caribbean

Photo: US Coast Guard/Ricardo Castrodad

The US Coast Guard, the UK Royal Navy, and US law enforcement partner agencies seized 1,400 kilograms of cocaine and detained nine suspected smugglers following the interdiction of two separate drug smuggling events in the Caribbean Sea in late January 2020, the Coast Guard 7th District said in a statement on Wednesday, February 5.

The seized drug shipments are estimated to have a wholesale value of more than US$46.2 million.

The interdictions were the result of an international, multi-agency law enforcement effort in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard, Campaign Martillo (“Hammer”; a joint, inter-agency, 20-nation collaborative counter-narcotic effort), and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), and will be prosecuted by the US Federal District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.

In the first interdiction, the Royal Navy fleet auxiliary ship RFA Mounts Bay, while on patrol with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) and a Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) armed helicopter onboard, detected two suspicious go-fast vessels approximately 74 nautical miles south of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, on January 24.

Mounts Bay launched the Coast Guard HITRON helicopter and the ship’s pursuit vessel with the Coast Guard LEDET to interdict both suspect vessels.

The Coast Guard LEDET boarding team, with the assistance of Mounts Bay‘s crew, boarded both suspect vessels, apprehending seven men and seizing 42 bales of suspected contraband.

In the second interdiction, a marine patrol aircraft detected a northbound target of interest, southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic, on January 30. The Famous-class medium endurance cutter Bear along with a helicopter responded to interdict the go-fast.

Bear‘s Over the Horizon cutter boat and embarked helicopter arrived on scene and stopped the go-fast. The cutter’s boarding team then detained the two men aboard the go-fast after discovering 13 bales of suspected contraband.

Bear delivered the seized contraband and detainees from both cases to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, February 4.

Between October 2019 and December 2019, the coast guard and Caribbean Border Interagency Group authorities have seized 12,060 kilograms of cocaine and 184 kilograms of marijuana during law enforcement operations surrounding Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The wholesale value for these seizures is worth more than US$314 million.

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