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Royal Navy warship seizes £24m of cocaine in drugs bust

28 October 2022
A Royal Navy ship and US Coast Guard boarding team seized more than 400kg of cocaine worth around £24m on Britain’s streets from a boat in the Caribbean.

Caribbean-based patrol ship HMS Medway and her embarked US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment spotted the vessel near the Dominican Republic with help from a patrol aircraft.

Following a tense chase, the vessel was boarded and the drugs discovered with three crew members detained.

“To secure an interdiction on our first day dedicated to this type of operation in this period has been tremendous,” said Commander Chris Hollingworth, Commanding Officer of Medway.

“Everyone involved demonstrated their professionalism during a challenging pursuit. It might be the first, but we’re going to make sure that it won’t be the last, and I speak on behalf of everyone here in saying this has galvanised our determination to succeed.”

The boat contained several large packages which were quickly confirmed as being cocaine prior to being seized and brought aboard the warship.

It’s believed the boat had come from South America, a common route taken by smugglers at this time of year.

After an overnight operation to secure the contraband – estimated by the National Crime Agency to be worth around £24m, had those drugs reached the streets of the UK – and detain the crew, the vessel was sunk by Medway’s gunnery team. 

The destruction of the drugs smuggling vessel, which is normal for this type of operation, ensures it is no longer used for illegal activity while also providing valuable gunnery training.

“Although we talk of these boats being commonplace in the Caribbean, that doesn’t in any way diminish the achievement of landing a bust like this,” said a member of the boarding team, US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 404, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Together with our partners on board Medway and up in the skies above us, we’re able to smash a hole in the supply chain and disrupt the movement of these harmful drugs before they have the chance to harm people at home and abroad.”

Medway recently helped the people of the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos in their recovery efforts following Hurricanes Ian and Fiona.

“It’s a perfect example of Medway’s versatility, and demonstrates my team’s ability to shift from Disaster Relief Operations to Counter Illicit Trafficking Operations without missing a beat,” added Cdr Hollingworth.

“I’m exceptionally proud of the collective effort of my ship’s company and our colleagues from the US Coast Guard for their proactive attitude and total commitment to the task.”

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