Tug Seizure Marks UK's Largest Drug Bust

MV Hamil

Published May 1, 2015 1:39 PM by Kathryn Stone

Over £500 million GBP ($756 million USD) worth of cocaine have been recovered from an ocean-going tug seized by UK authorities last week, making the discovery the largest in British history. 

The MV Hamil, registered in the Marshall Islands, was seized by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Somerset and Border cutter Valiant April 23, off the coast of Scotland following reports from French authorities. Initial National Crime Agency (NCA) numbers put the onboard drug cargo at two tons, but subsequent searching by Border Force officers specializing in deep rummage elevated the total to three tons.

The nine Turkish nationals operating the tug appeared in court on Monday, and were later remanded back into custody after making no plea or declaration. The drug traffickers face charges of possession a controlled substance under Criminal Justice Act of 1990, which can carry a sentence of up to 7 years in prison per count. They are set to appear in court again on May 5. 

The previous drug bust record was held by a 65 ft pleasure boat, the Louise, which was intercepted in 2011 carrying 1.2 tons of cocaine – almost a third of the amount recovered from the MV Hamil.

Britain has one of the most lucrative drug markets in Europe, with large quantities of narcotics being supplied from South American countries such as Colombia and Venezuela. Every year an estimated 25 to 30 tons of drugs are smuggled into Britain.