British police on Thursday said they seized more than 3 tons of cocaine with a record street value of some $750m from a tugboat off the north-eastern coast of Scotland.
Officers detained the nine Turkish crew members found on board the vessel after it was boarded in a joint operation by border police and the British navy, the National Crime Agency said.
The tugboat MV Hamal was intercepted last week about 160km off the Scottish city of Aberdeen and specialists found the cocaine after a “lengthy and painstaking” search, the agency said without giving details of how the drug was hidden.
It said the nine Turkish citizens, aged 26 to 63, were charged with drug trafficking in an Aberdeen court on Monday.
The cocaine had “a likely potential street value of more than 500 million pounds, depending on purity,” the agency said.
“The search of this vessel has been lengthy and painstaking, undertaken by hugely skilled specialists working in difficult conditions,” said John McGowan, a senior investigating officer for the agency.
“The result is this massive discovery, believed to be the biggest single class-A drug seizure on record in the UK, and likely to be worth several hundred million pounds,” McGowan said, adding that investigations were continuing.
He said the ship was intercepted after intelligence cooperation with French customs authorities and the Lisbon-based Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre.