Devon

HMS Argyll seizes £36m of cocaine in the Caribbean

Drugs on deck of HMS Argyll. Pic: MoD Image copyright MOD
Image caption The latest seizure means the ship has confiscated about 1,600kg of cocaine in three months

Cocaine worth an estimated £36m has been seized by the Royal Navy after a high-speed chase across the Caribbean.

Smugglers began to throw their cargo overboard but were surrounded by patrol boats guided by the Plymouth-based frigate HMS Argyll.

The 850kg (1,900lbs) seizure is the third by HMS Argyll in as many months.

The seizures have resulted in 1,600kg (3,500lbs) of cocaine - with an estimated street value of £68m - being confiscated, the Royal Navy said.

'Intense' chase

The type 23 frigate has been conducting drug patrols in partnership with the UK's National Crime Agency, the US Coast Guard and other nations.

It is currently taking part in Operation Martillo, a 15-nation effort to prevent access to central America by air and sea by criminal gangs.

The aim is to stop the illegal movement of drugs from south America to the rest of the world, the navy said.

Image copyright MOD
Image caption Lt Matthew Turner said HMS Argyll's crew "out-manoeuvred" the smugglers

After receiving a tip-off from a US customs aircraft, HMS Argyll sailed 70 miles to intercept the suspect vessel during the operation late last week.

Lt Matthew Turner, who was in charge of the bridge during the chase, said: "It was an intense couple of hours as we were trying to out-think and out-manoeuvre a small boat which can change direction in an instant."

The ship's commanding officer, Cdr Paul Hammond, added that the night-time operation "had no helicopter support and was our most challenging, and satisfying yet".

The crew has been praised by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

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