COCAINE which could be worth more than £500 million has been recovered from a ship intercepted at sea in what is believed to be the UK’s biggest class-A drug seizure.
More than three tonnes of the drug were recovered from the MV Hamal in the North Sea in a joint operation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA) the Border Force and Royal Navy.
The search of this vessel has been lengthy and painstakingJohn McGowan
Royal Navy frigate HMS Somerset and Border Force cutter Valiant intercepted the vessel about 100 miles east of Aberdeen last Thursday after acting on NCA intelligence.
It was then taken to Aberdeen harbour, where Border Force officers with “specialist deep rummage skills” carried out an extensive search, supported by Police Scotland.
The NCA said that the cocaine had an estimated total weight in excess of three tonnes which, if cut and sold in the UK, could have had a likely potential street value of more than £500 million, depending on purity. The find is thought to be five times more valuable than the previous biggest UK drugs seizure.
John McGowan, senior investigating officer for the NCA, based at the Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire, 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 co-operation between the NCA, Border Force, the Royal Navy, plus the French DNRED (customs investigation service) and our other international partners. The extensive operation in Aberdeen was given substantial support from Police Scotland.”
The nine-man crew of the Hamal, all Turkish nationals aged between 26 and 63, have been charged with drugs offences.
Mustafa Ceviz, 54, Ibrahim Dag, 47, Mumin Sahin, 45, Muhammet Seckin, 26, Umit Colakel, 38, Kayacan Dalgakiran, 63, and Emin Ozmen, 50, all from Istanbul, were all charged with possession of a controlled drug when they appeared before Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Monday. Abdulkadir Cirik, 31, from Mersin, and Mustafa Guven, 47, from Yozgat, also faced the same charge.
None of the men made any plea or declaration and all were remanded in custody.
The NCA said the operation was conducted following close co-operation with the DNRED and in co-ordination with the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) plus the Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N), based in Lisbon.