Historic drug bust at Sheerness Port displays depths of international crime syndicates’ sophistication
In a staggering turn of events, the authorities at Sheerness Port in Kent have unearthed cocaine with a staggering street value of £10 million. The seizure was the result of a meticulously planned operation which saw the joint forces of the National Crime Agency (NCA), the Metropolitan Police, and the Border Force intercept a shipment from a Panamanian-registered vessel ferrying bananas to the Netherlands.
Astonishingly, the contraband, weighing in at 137 kilos, was concealed in four voluminous holdalls strategically placed below the ship’s water line inside the sea chest – an apparatus used for drawing seawater to ensure the ship’s balance.
“This was an extremely rare and sophisticated concealment, and shows how far criminal networks will go to get dangerous drugs like cocaine into circulation,” remarked David Phillips, NCA’s Operations Manager, stressing the audacity and novelty of the operation. “The sale of such class A drugs is controlled by gangs who inflict violence and exploitation in our communities.”
The recovery operation, replete with cinematic intensity, saw the specialist Met Police divers delving into the murky depths in treacherous visibility conditions. Aided by the Border Force National Deep Rummage Team and the port operator Peel Ports, the divers managed to extricate the drugs from behind robustly secured grills – a painstaking process that spanned five gruelling hours.
This bust serves as a grim reminder of the innovative means that organised crime groups employ. The only comparable incident in the UK occurred last November, when 46 kilos of cocaine were discovered underwater in Bristol.
An official from the Met Police delved into the complexities of the operation, highlighting the myriad challenges, from unpredictable tidal movements to the very depth of the water. “As the divers emerged from the water our teams made efforts to conceal and secure the Class A drugs. However, with great teamwork and physical effort from all teams, we were able to stop a large quantity of Class A drugs from reaching their intended destination.”
Stephen Whitton, Deputy Director of Border Force Maritime Command, voiced his resolve, stating: “The combined efforts of the NCA, the Met Police, and Border Force, have prevented £10 million worth of cocaine from plaguing our streets and countries nearby.”
Currently, the NCA is in collaboration with law enforcement agencies from the Netherlands and Panama, further indicating the global nature of this illicit trade. Source