The Royal Gibraltar Police and HM Customs working in conjunction with the American Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA), and with the assistance of the Gibraltar Port Authority, yesterday conducted an intelligence-led policing operation in the Bay of Gibraltar.
A total of 34 officers from both agencies boarded the vessel Mount Faber whilst at anchor in the bay. The vessel is a 280 metre long bulk carrier sailing under the Liberian flag with a displacement of 89,603 tons.
Intelligence in possession of the Royal Gibraltar Police suggested that the vessel may have been carrying a shipment of illicit drugs concealed in what is termed as a parasite container attached to the exterior of the hull, under the water line.
The search of both the vessel and the exterior of the hull (the latter conducted by specialist underwater contractors), has stretched over the course of yesterday afternoon and all day today. It has required officers to remain on board the vessel overnight and has been an extremely complex task, both from an operational and logistical point of view.
On completion of the search operation the container was brought ashore at the Gibraltar Government Marine Station. After all the necessary forensic examinations were conducted by members of the RGP’s Crime Scene Investigation Unit the container was opened and approximately 108kg of Cocaine was found concealed inside the container. The seizure has an approximate street value of £6.5 Million.
In addition to the drugs seized the Master of the vessel, the Chief Engineer and a crewman have been arrested.
A spokesperson for the joint operation explained "Although a significant amount of drugs have been seized, the importance of the operation is not constrained to the value of the drugs seized. The more significant and added value is the level of disruption that law enforcement operations such as these cause to the; integrity, structure and effectiveness of international criminality and the organised crime groups that are involved in these clandestine and illicit activities. These operations also provide a very valuable disruption of the trafficking routes available to these organisations."
"Over the last several months members of local law enforcement agencies have demonstrated their ability to coordinate and operate jointly. This is a further example of how our inter-operability is enabling Gibraltar to contribute to the global fight against crime and, in this particular operation, international drug trafficking. More importantly, it denies the use of Gibraltar, whether directly or indirectly, to organised crime groups."