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Magnificent seventh drugs bust as Navy warship seizes £15m narcotics

A sailor checks the impressive haul of drugs
23 January 2022
More than one tonne of drugs – worth over £15m – has been seized by the Royal Navy in its first bust of the year.

In a ten-hour operation sailors and Royal Marines from HMS Montrose bagged an assortment of heroin, methamphetamine and hashish – depriving criminal and terrorist networks of vital funding.

The frigate – which has been operating permanently in the Middle East for nearly three years – was patrolling for a New Zealand-led task force in the Gulf of Oman when she encountered a suspect vessel.

Montrose’s boarding team pounced so quickly that the crew had no time to hide their illegal cargo in a secret compartment – though the boarding team still searched every inch of the boat to make sure all drugs were recovered.

Lieutenant Joe Martin, who led the Royal Marines boarding team – the first personnel aboard the suspect vessel – said his team had trained extensively for the success. “This has been an incredibly rewarding day for me and my team. It’s great to take drugs like this off the streets and we’re ready to go again.”

Lieutenant Commander Ellis Pearson, Montrose’s Weapon Engineer Officer, added. “The timing of our operation was excellent. As soon as the team got onboard the vessel they could see the drugs. Later it turned out that although the Master of the vessel had a hiding place ready for the drugs they hadn’t had time to conceal them at that point.

“The team still did a thorough search of the vessel and worked really hard to ensure we had located all of the illegal narcotics onboard.” 

A seizure of this size will deal a huge blow to the criminal or terrorist gangs using these illegal narcotics to fund their activity. Disrupting the terrorist organisations, criminals and their funding lines is key to keeping to UK, and rest of the world, safe.

Commander Claire Thompson, Commanding Officer of HMS Montrose

When finished, the drugs tallies 663kg heroin, 87kg methamphetamine and 291kg hashish and marijuana­ ­– 1.04 tonnes of illegal narcotics with an estimated wholesale value of £15m.

It’s the seventh drugs seizure the frigate has made in just under three years in the Middle East, busts which have deprived criminals and terrorists just under £80m of funding.

“A seizure of this size will deal a huge blow to the criminal or terrorist gangs using these illegal narcotics to fund their activity,” said Montrose’s Commanding Officer Commander Claire Thompson. “Disrupting the terrorist organisations, criminals and their funding lines is key to keeping to UK, and rest of the world, safe.

“Today we have disrupted the unlawful use of the sea. This not only supports our coalition partners, but also supports stability in this part of the world.”

Earlier this month, HMS Montrose passed the milestone of operating 1,000 days out of the Royal Navy’s operational hub in the Middle East in Bahrain.

As well as protecting the interests of the United Kingdom and its allies, the Plymouth-based warship regularly works alongside international partners of the 34-nation Combined Maritime Forces and its several task forces dedicated to safety and security across the region, notably the Royal New Zealand Navy-led Combined Task Force 150.

“Through perseverance, dedication and professionalism, HMS Montrose has denied criminal and terrorist organisations the ability to use the funds from the sale of these illegal narcotics for illicit activity,” said Captain Brendon Clark RNZN, Commander of CTF 150.

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