Cocaine Worth £300m Found On Luxury Yacht In Southampton

Source: THEWILL. -

Cocaine weighing some 1.2 tonnes was found hidden beneath the bathing deck of a 65ft luxury yacht after a six-day search.

Two massive consignments of cocaine bound for Britain's streets have been seized in operations by the police and UK border agency.

The Home Office said the discovery of 1.2 tonnes of cocaine hidden aboard a pleasure cruiser at Southampton was a record haul in the United Kingdom.

In London, members of a smuggling ring were jailed over a separate conspiracy which saw a tonne of cocaine grabbed off the Spanish coast after an operation spearheaded by the Metropolitan police.

Scotland Yard believes the jailing is the final link in taking out virtually the entire international network, which involved drug dealers in London who bought a boat in Canada, then shipped the drugs from South America, through the Caribbean, on to Spain, and eventually into the UK.

But experts in drugs policy warned the massive seizures, while examples of good work by UK law enforcement, would make little difference to the price of cocaine or its availability on the streets.

The seizure of £300m worth of drugs from the pleasure cruiser at Southampton docks followed an international operation.

Once the vessel was seized it took six days of searching of the 65ft craft for investigators to find the cocaine.

Six people have been arrested. The drugs, with a 90% purity, are believed to have come from Venezuela.

Brodie Clark, head of the UKBA said: "It's a major seizure. It's about serious crime, it's about major criminal disruption."

At the end of the Scotland Yard case, two members of the British end of another drugs ring were sentenced for their part in a drugs network which was trying to smuggle one tonne of cocaine into the UK in December 2009 aboard a ship called the Destiny Empress.

The breakthrough came when police in London, investigating two seemingly mid-level drug dealers, raided a west London home, during which a detective noticed a piece of paper in their bin. It was a receipt for about £200,000 worth of work on a boat moored in Nova Scotia, Canada.

The boat was a former Canadian coastguard vessel which was being refurbished and converted to hide the drugs.

It was seized by the Spanish navy 200 miles off the Iberian coast.

Fourteen people have been convicted in Britain, and sentenced to a total of 79 years, and trials are still to take place in Spain.

Detective Inspector Steve Ellen said: "It's rare to take out the whole network."

He said some involved were "clean skins", with no record of involvement in drugs or criminality.

Harry Shapiro of the charity Drugscope said the massive seizures were unlikely to have had much effect on the ability of cocaine users to buy the class A drug. He said: "No one is reporting a cocaine drought.

"Everyone knows you can't stamp out drug use and stop drugs getting in, it's always going to be an exercise in damage limitation. The role of the authorities is to do whatever they can."

The Serious and Organised Crime Agency estimates that 25-30 tonnes of cocaine is smuggled into the UK every year, meaning the record seizure off the waters of Southampton represents 4% of the annual amount.The average price of a gramme of cocaine sold on the streets is £60 to £70, and one way dealers can compensate for a drop in supply is by cutting the purity.

A report from MPs on the home affairs committee in 2010 found that purity levels had dropped, meaning one gramme could contain just 5% pure cocaine.

Cocaine is the second most popular drug in the UK, with its use having trebled in the last decade

The Guardian, UK.