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Huge stash of cocaine intercepted off Cornwall

Huge stash of cocaine intercepted off Cornwall

Published by Emma Carton at 7:27am 28th November 2019. (Updated at 8:03am 28th November 2019)

A Dutch man has been jailed after admitting importing two tonnes of cocaine found hidden on a yacht, intercepted off Cornwall.

The drugs seized from the SY Marcia had an estimated street value of a £134 million.

The vessel was towed into Newlyn last July after a huge operation, led by the National Crime Agency.

61-year-old Maarten Peter Pieterse was sentenced on Wednesday after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.

newlyn 3
A Dutch man has been jailed after admitting importing £134 million of cocaine found hidden on a yacht that was intercepted off Cornwall

 

How were the drugs uncovered?

On the 18th July 2018, the Border Force cutter HMC Vigilant intercepted the Dutch-flagged SY Marcia approximately 120 miles south west of the Cornish coast. 

It then escorted the 60-foot yacht into Newlyn harbour near Penzance and the following day a search of the vessel began.

NCA and Border Force officers discovered over 1,600 kilo blocks, wrapped in plastic bagging, in a compartment beneath the decking area at the rear of the boat. 

In total, 2.1 tonnes of high purity cocaine were recovered, with an estimated wholesale value of £50m. If cut and sold on the street, the haul had an estimated value of £134m.

newlyn 17
The drugs, seized from the SY Marcia when the vessel was towed into Newlyn, had an estimated street value of £134 million

 

The yacht left Marina d'Angra, Terceira, in the Azores on the 9th July 2018, and officers believe the haul was destined for Europe.

The National Maritime Intelligence Centre in the UK, the joint Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics in Lisbon, law enforcement partners in Portugal, France, and the Netherlands, and Devon and Cornwall Police were involved in the operation.

At one point the search was stopped following the discovery of a suspicious package in the bales of cocaine.

However, it resumed after the all-clear was given by a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

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The National Crime Agency, Border Force and police from across Europe were involved in the operation off Cornwall in July 2018

"This huge haul of cocaine is one of the largest seizures of class A ever in the UK, and with a potential street value of more than £130 million.

"Thanks to the international cooperation of our law enforcement partners, this vessel was intercepted, taken into port and searched, resulting in us seizing the drugs and significantly disrupting the activities of organised crime groups.

"I have no doubt these drugs were destined for the streets of Europe and the UK, to be sold by drugs gangs who are also involved in intimidation, exploitation and violence.

"We know the criminal trade in drugs is driven by financial gain, and the loss of the profit that would have been made from this seizure will have a major impact on the crime groups involved.

"The NCA continues to provide a key role in tackling criminal networks supplying class A drugs into the UK, and our work with partners at home and abroad to tackle the supply chain is vital to this".

Ty Surgeon, National Crime Agency

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The search operation on board the SY Marcia saw Newlyn harbour sealed off for a period time, after the discovery of a suspicious package

"This was a sophisticated concealment, hiding a vast quantity of cocaine, that was only detected thanks to the expertise of the Border Force's specialist search team and cutter crew working alongside the National Crime Agency and our law enforcement partners overseas.

"The vessel had been specially adapted for the sole purpose of drug smuggling.

"The seizure and the conviction of Pieterse that followed is testament to the effectiveness of the multi-agency approach we take to securing the UK's border and territorial waters.

"Working together, we will continue to do all we can to tackle those involved in smuggling, to protect our communities from the damage caused by illegal drugs and to keep our borders secure".

Stephen Wilton, Border Force Maritime

45-year-old fellow crew member, Emile Schoemaker, was found not guilty by a jury at Bristol Crown Court back in June.

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