Sunday 19 November 2017

Boat linked to cocaine haul seized by police in Wales

Members of the navy stand behind cocaine which was taken from onboard the yacht Makayabella in Co Cork
Members of the navy stand behind cocaine which was taken from onboard the yacht Makayabella in Co Cork

Tom Brady and Ralph Riegel

A second boat believed by gardai and customs officers to be linked to the €80m cocaine smuggling plot has been seized in north Wales.

The 25ft motor launch, Sea Breeze, was to have been used for offloading the shipment from the yacht, boarded by the Naval Service off the west Cork coast last Tuesday.

Two of the three suspected crew members on the Sea Breeze have so far been arrested by the UK's national crime agency and a big search is under way for the third.

The Irish Independent disclosed yesterday that the Sea Breeze had been put under surveillance by gardai and customs while it was in waters off Rosslare, Co Wexford, last week.

Officers think the smugglers intended to shift the 41 bales of cocaine from the yacht, Makayabella, to the Sea Breeze in the Atlantic.

It is now believed that the shipment would have been landed at either a Welsh or southern English port rather than taken here.

The majority of the cocaine is likely to have been intended for the UK market.

But gardai are still trying to establish whether a portion of the shipment was due to have been subsequently diverted here for the Irish market.

Officers from the national drugs unit are making inquiries to determine if the gang, thought to have been behind the smuggling plot, had links with Irish drugs traffickers.

Detention

The detention of the Sea Breeze was made at Pwllheli in north Wales, west of Porthmadog.

The town is popular for its strand and small leisure craft marina.

It is also less than 30 minutes' drive from the isolated Snowdonia national park.

Gardai and Naval Service officials opted not to detain the small craft off Wexford - amid fears it could wreck the multi-agency operation in place to detain the larger cocaine yacht.

The seizure of the second boat follows the arrest of two men in the Yorkshire area of the UK in the 24 hours after the Naval Service boarded the 'Makayabella' 250km off Mizen Head last Tuesday.

Gardai are now liaising with Interpol, the UK's national crime agency and Lisbon-based MAOC-N over the cocaine smuggling attempt.

Gardai suspect the value of the shipment intercepted by the Naval Service will increase amid indications it is of relatively high purity content.

The two other men in custody in the UK, both of whom are middle-aged, are UK nationals.

The 28-year-old yacht is now berthed at the basin in Haulbowline Naval Base.

It is being stripped by forensic experts for clues as to the origin of the cocaine shipment and the identity of other individuals who may have been involved in the smuggling operation.

Gardai know the Makayabella was in waters off Venezuela last month.

The cocaine is suspected to have originated in Colombia.

If the cocaine is found to have a high purity level,its value could soar over €120m.

Irish Independent

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