Six charged after after two tonnes of cocaine seized on luxury yacht
Six men have been charged with drug trafficking after more than two tonnes of cocaine worth around £160 million was seized at sea.
The men, 32-year-old British national Andrew Cole from Stockton on Tees, and five Nicaraguans, aged between 34 and 49, are due to appear at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court on Monday (September 13).
The suspects were all arrested on Thursday evening (September 9) 80 miles off the coast of Plymouth aboard luxury yacht the Kahu in an operation led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and supported by Border Force and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
NCA deputy director Matt Horne said it was a “massive haul of cocaine” and will “smash a hole” in the organised crime group’s operations.
The Jamaican-flagged yacht was sailing from the Caribbean when it was intercepted. The NCA said it was escorted back to the UK mainland where a team carried out a “deep rummage search” and discovered the “enormous haul” of Class A drugs.
The arrests followed intelligence from the AFP’s Operation Ironside – the country’s investigation into the AnOm encrypted comms platform.
Mr Horne said: “This is a massive haul of cocaine with an estimated street value of around £160 million.
“There’s no doubt these drugs would have been sold on into communities across the UK in such ways as County Lines fuelling more crime and misery.
“Organised crime groups (OCGs) are motivated by money. The deprivation of these drugs will smash a hole in the OCG’s plans and ability to operate.
“Also, the arrests of the men transporting the drugs means the crime group has lost trusted offenders who would have been key to their operation.”
He added: “We continue to work with partners at home such as Border Force and those abroad such as the AFP to protect the public from the Class A drugs threat.”
AFP Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale, said: “Intelligence from Operation Ironside had enabled the AFP to assist international enforcement partners in disrupting an alleged sophisticated criminal network.
“Operation Ironside has opened the door to unprecedented collaboration across law enforcement agencies around the globe.
“This result highlights the importance of the AFP’s partnership with the NCA to combat offshore transnational organised crime that impacts both of our countries.
“The AFP and NCA have a strong, historic relationship and both agencies recognise the significant threat to national security posed by transnational organised crime.”