15/09/2006

Royal Navy intercept £500m Caribbean drugs haul

Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Wave Ruler has swooped on a Caribbean drug smuggling boat - in one of the biggest operations yet.

The tanker, supported by a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter, stopped up to five tonnes of cocaine - with an estimated street value of £500 million - thought to be heading for the streets of Europe and the UK.

The Caribbean drug runners scuppered their small fishing boat and set fire to their illicit cargo North East of the Barbados coast after a night-time chase. Ten suspected smugglers were arrested by US Coastguard officers embarked on the RFA ship.

Wave Ruler's Commanding Officer, Captain William Tait, said: "We're all delighted. This has been a highly successful operation against those who profit from the illegal drugs trade. The removal of this cocaine from the system will be a serious blow to the traffickers and prevent drugs from reaching the streets where they cause misery and crime.

"The role played by the US Coast Guard cannot be underestimated. They are the ones who face an unknown and possibly armed threat each time they go to board a vessel.

"My ship's company is very proud that they have prevented drugs worth millions and millions of pounds from reaching the streets. Their performance was exceptional and indicative of the commitment, training and dedication of Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel operating in support of the UK Armed Forces and our allies. The RFA is proud to play its part in the continuing war on drugs."

It is understood that much of the cargo was destroyed but cocaine with a street value of £65 million was recovered from the sea when it floated to the surface.

Commenting on the incident Defence Minister Lord Drayson said: "Thanks to the crew of RFA Wave Ruler, this huge consignment of cocaine has been kept off the streets, potentially in the UK. Unstopped, these illegal drug runners might have contributed to the destruction of the lives of more young people and their families."

(SP/KMcA)

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