Criminal intelligence provided to UK authorities from the ongoing Australian Federal Police operation, dubbed Operation Ironside, has resulted in more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine being seized and six people arrested in waters off the coast of the United Kingdom.
AFP investigators notified the UK’s National Crime Agency of a transnational criminal syndicate using encrypted communications to coordinate cocaine shipments on the vessel Kahu.
UK authorities intercepted the vessel approximately 80 nautical miles off the coast of the UK, near the English city of Plymouth, in a multi-agency operation which included AFP officers based in the UK.
The UK’s Border Force boarded and secured the vessel before returning the yacht to Plymouth for examination.
Five Nicaraguans and one Briton are arrested
Five Nicaraguan nationals and one UK national who were on the yacht have been arrested in connection with the attempted importation and are currently being questioned.
The arrests are linked to the global joint law enforcement sting known as Operation Ironside. The AFP, working with the American FBI’s operation Trojan Shield, has led to the mass disruption of the criminal environment across Australia and around the world.
AFP Assistant Commissioner for the Northern Command, Lesa Gale, said intelligence from Operation Ironside had enabled the AFP to assist international enforcement partners in disrupting an alleged sophisticated criminal network.
“Operation Ironside has opened the door to unprecedented collaboration across law enforcement agencies around the globe,” Gale stated.
Highlights importance of policing partnerships
“This result highlights the importance of the AFP’s partnership with the [UK’s National Crime Agency] to combat offshore transnational organised crime that impacts both of our countries.
“The AFP and NCA have a strong, historic relationship and both agencies recognise the significant threat to national security posed by transnational organised crime.”
NCA Deputy Director, Matt Horne, said this was a massive haul of cocaine with an estimated street value of around £120-million (AUD$226-million).
“There’s no doubt these drugs would have been sold on into communities across the UK, fuelling more crime and misery.
“Organised crime groups are motivated by money. The deprivation of these drugs will smash a hole in the group’s plans and ability to operate,” he said.