Navy swoop nets £200m of cocaine
BBC - Monday, 31 October 2005, 21:52 GMT
A Royal Navy warship has seized two tonnes of cocaine worth £200m during a drugs bust in the western Caribbean.
HMS Cumberland intercepted a speedboat in international waters around 100 miles off the coast of Nicaragua during a routine counter-drugs patrol.
The Devonport-based frigate led the pursuit of the speedboat crew who had initially tried to escape.
The gang gave themselves up after specialist snipers on a Lynx helicopter fired shots to stop their engines.
Officials say four arrests have been made.
Secretary of State for Defence John Reid praised the navy's work.
"This is a great success for the Royal Navy," he said.
"Drugs are a scourge of civilised society, crippling the lives of millions around the world.
"Taking the fight to those who defy the international community is as vital now as it has ever been," he said.
"For that reason, I pay tribute to the crew of HMS Cumberland, whose professionalism and commitment to the task has dealt a sledgehammer blow to the drug traffickers."
The Royal Navy crew worked closely with the Lynx helicopter from her consort Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and the US coast guard to seize the drugs which have a UK street value of £200m.
After the specialist snipers fired bullets, a team from Cumberland boarded the speedboat and arrested the crew, who offered little resistance.
Captain Simon Ancona, HMS Cumberland's commanding officer said: "This operation has stopped Class A drugs reaching the streets and harming our communities.
"The ship's prompt reactions allowed the appropriate and lawful action to take place with the minimal use of force."
He added the success sent "a strong message" that governments, agencies and armed forces worldwide would work together to stop drug trafficking.
Capt Ancona told the BBC the cocaine had been found in "about 90 mail-sack sized" bags.
He believes similar drug raids were "inevitable".
"The trouble with the drug trade, especially from South America, is there's no lack of the raw material nor is there a lack of a market, all one can really do is effect the tube inbetween."
HMS Cumberland begun a four-month deployment in the Caribbean in August.
The warship will also provide disaster relief and is helping monitor the progress of Hurricane Beta.
In 2003, Cumberland and Wave Knight seized 3.6 tonnes of cocaine during an anti-drugs operation in the mid-Atlantic.
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