A huge consignment of cocaine that was destined for the UK and Europe has been seized off the coast of Barbados.
Investigators from the National Crime Agency (NCA), working alongside European law enforcement partners, spent several months tracking a drug trafficking network operating out of South America.
They were able to identify a Venezuelan-flagged fishing vessel that was packed with 4.2 tonnes of high purity cocaine.
Last week a French naval vessel operating out of Martinique intercepted and boarded the boat in international waters east of Barbados.
Investigators have said the high purity drugs would have had a street value of hundreds of millions of pounds and were destined for the streets of Europe.
The boat and her eight crew were apprehended and handed over to the Venezuelan authorities.
It is understood part of the intelligence that led to the vessel being identified came from the NCA’s international network who were working with international partners through the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC-N) based in Lisbon.
Deputy Director Tom Dowdall, head of NCA International, said: “The role played by the NCA in identifying and locating the vessel was critical to the success of the operation.
“Through MAOC-N we were then able to ensure that the boat was intercepted by our partners, in this case the French Navy.
“Working with our European partners we have stopped a huge haul of drugs from making it onto the European market, and I’ve no doubt some of that would have ended up in the UK in the hands of criminal gangs also engaged in violence and exploitation.
“A seizure of this size will have a dramatic impact on the organised crime groups involved, and deprive them of huge profits.”
There had been concerns that international cooperation between European law enforcement agencies could be impacted following Brexit.
But earlier this week senior figures from the NCA and UK policing insisted they had confidence in the UK’s new security arrangements under Brexit.
Steve Rodhouse, Director General of the NCA told the House of Lords EU Security Committee the deal now in place replicated the crime fighting tools they had previously had and appeared to be working well.