Two drug smugglers have been jailed for a total of 42 years on August 12 after they were caught by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Somerset in what became known as the largest ever seizure of Class A drugs in the UK.
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 Tanzanian-flagged 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.
A criminal justice adviser of the Crown Prosecution Service 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 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: “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.”