International operation ends in £6.3m cocaine haul in bay
Police and Customs officers recovered 90 kilos of cocaine worth £6.3m from a “parasite container” attached to the exterior of a cargo ship anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar, in an operation that has disrupted an international trafficking route.
The officers, supported by the Gibraltar Port Authority, boarded the cargo ship Mount Faber on Monday evening acting on intelligence and worked through the night before finding the drugs below the vessel’s waterline.
Three people have been arrested, including the ship’s captain, the chief engineer and a crewman.
The complex operation unfolded in conjunction with the US Drug Enforcement Administration and despite the relatively small size of the drugs haul, could have a wider impact on the illicit international drugs trade.
“Although a significant amount of drugs have been seized notwithstanding the size of the vessel, the importance of the operation is not constrained to the value of the drugs,” the Royal Gibraltar Police, HM Customs and the Gibraltar Port Authority said in a joint statement.
“The more significant and added value is the level of disruption that law enforcement operations such as these cause to the integrity, structure and effectiveness of international criminality and the organised crime groups that are involved in these clandestine and illicit activities.”
“These operations also provide a very valuable disruption of the trafficking routes available to these organisations.”
The operation also highlights the coordinated response from local law enforcement agencies, which signals Gibraltar’s commitment to denying organised crime use of this jurisdiction.
A total of 34 officers from the RGP and Customs boarded the 89,603-ton vessel while it was still at anchor after arriving here from Colombia for bunkers.
The search of both the vessel and the exterior of the hull, the latter conducted by specialist underwater contractors, stretched over the course of Monday evening and all yesterday.
“It necessitated officers remaining on board the vessel overnight and has proved an extremely complex task, both from an operational and logistical point of view,” the statement said.
The container was brought ashore at the Gibraltar Government Marine Station and all the necessary forensic examinations were conducted by members of the RGP’s Crime Scene Investigation Unit before it was opened.
Approximately 108kilos of cocaine were found concealed inside the container, with a street value of £6.5m.