Two sailors have been jailed for a total of 42 years today in relation to the largest ever seizure of Class A drugs in the UK – after a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer provided crucial support to the operation.
3.2 tonnes of cocaine, with a street value of over half a billion pounds, was seized from the MV Hamal 100 miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire last year. Although there was strong intelligence that the boat was carrying a large volume of drugs, it could not be boarded in international waters by the UK authorities without the permission of the Tanzanian government – something they had never previously granted.
The CPS’s Criminal Justice Adviser in Tanzania – a criminal lawyer who provides assistance to Tanzanian prosecutors, judiciary and law-makers to increase co-operation on tackling serious organised crime – secured authority from the highest political level, to board the boat, and then search and take action in less than 24 hours.
As a result, the Royal Navy’s HMS Somerset was then able to intercept the Tanzanian-registered vessel and two Turkish sailors were today sentenced, following an investigation by the National Crime Agency, to a total of 42 years imprisonment at the High Court in Glasgow in connection with the subsequent seizure.
Sue Patten, Head of CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division, said: “Acting quickly and precisely, the CPS Criminal Justice Adviser was able get permission from the Tanzanian authorities to board the boat within 24 hours of receiving the intelligence.
“Under international maritime law the UK cannot board a vessel in international waters which is under the flag of a foreign state unless that state gives specific legal permission to do so. Without the swift actions of our Criminal Justice Adviser there was a high risk that the vessel may have escaped and we would never have been able to bring these men to justice.
“I’d also like to thank our Tanzanian partners for their understanding of the seriousness of the request and for ensuring a speedy resolution.”