Men jailed for biggest drugs seizure in British history

Two Turkish men to appear in court after cocaine seizure in North Sea. Picture: NCA
Two Turkish men to appear in court after cocaine seizure in North Sea. Picture: NCA
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Two men were today jailed for smuggling more than £512 million of cocaine - the biggest Class A drug haul in British history.

The three ton haul was so huge that it took customs chiefs three days to unload all.

Captain Mumin Sahin, 47, and First Officer Emin Ozmen, 51, from Turkey, were jailed for a combined total of 42 years.

They were caught off the coast of Aberdeenshire on a tugboat following a multi-agency international investigation in April last year called Operation Screenplay.

The pair’s Tanzanian-registered MV Hamal was intercepted by Royal Navy destroyer HMS Somerset and Border Force cutter HMC Valiant in the North Sea around 100 miles off Aberdeen in British waters.

National Crime Agency (NCA) officers boarded the ship after getting a tip-off from French authorities and escorted it into the Port of Aberdeen in April last year.

When the MV Hamal arrived in port, cutter crew, specialist Border Force deep rummage teams and NCA and Police Authority forensic teams started a search.

Ballast tanks were pumped out for access, and after drilling through a metal panel inside a tank they found a white powder on the drill bit which later tested positive for cocaine.

Investigators soon found an area of floor that had been cemented over in crew quarters, under a medical cabinet.

Inside, there was a sealed metal hatch holding 128 bales of cocaine each weighing 25kg.

The total weight of cocaine on the boat was 3.2 tonnes and its purity was between 58 and 74 per cent.

It was the biggest ever seizure of class A drugs in the UK.

Investigators believe it had been cut three times over before being sold, meaning it had the potential to create almost ten tonnes of adulterated street level purity cocaine, valued at around £512 million.

Nine Turkish crew members were detained and formally questioned in Aberdeen.

The boat had sailed from Turkey via Tenerife in the Canary Islands and then across the Atlantic to Guyana in South America.

It is believed the drugs were loaded onto the boat when the vessel paused for 12 to 15 hours after leaving Georgetown, Guyana.

Following a three-month trial at the High Court in Glasgow, ship captain Sahin and first mate Ozmen were found guilty of two counts of drug trafficking.

Charges against four crew members were found not proven, while three others were acquitted earlier in proceedings.

But Mumin and Ozmen were today jailed, Mumin for 22 years and Ozmen for 20 years.

Speaking following the sentencing, prosecutor David Harvie said: “The international drugs trade does not respect borders, and those of us whose job it is to dismantle it are working ever-closer together to ensure we stay one step ahead.

“Scotland’s reach in pursuing criminals is on a truly global scale and in this case we have dealt a substantial economic blow to organised criminals.

“The Hamal was identified after an intelligence tip-off from French authorities, and swift co-operation from the Attorney General in Tanzania where the ship was registered allowed it to be boarded.

“Our investigation then stretched from Guyana, who provided access to crucial shipping records, to Spain, who gave us crucial information on the ship’s stop-offs in the Canary Islands.

“We also worked with colleagues in Denmark, Norway and the United States to piece specific elements of the evidence together.

“Scotland is well-placed in this increasingly connected world to identify, apprehend and prosecute all those who seek to profit from crime in our jurisdiction, and we will continue to work with our agencies at home and abroad to build on this strength.”

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