Nine suspected cocaine smugglers nabbed in Caribbean

The United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agency says British Royal Navy and US law enforcement partners seized 1,400 kilograms (3,086) pounds of cocaine, with an estimated street value of US$46.2 million, and detained nine suspected smugglers following the interdiction of two separate drug smuggling events in the Caribbean Sea on January 24 and January 30.

On Wednesday, CBP said the US Coast Guard cutter Bear delivered the seized contraband and detainees from both cases to CBP officers, US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-Homeland Security Investigations, and US Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“The interdiction was a result of an international, multi-agency law enforcement effort in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard, Campaign Martillo (a joint, interagency, 20-nation collaborative counter narcotic effort), and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), and will be prosecuted by the US Federal District Court for the District of Puerto Rico,” CBP said.

In the first interdiction, CBP said the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy RFA Mounts Bay, while on patrol with a US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) and a Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) armed helicopter onboard, detected two suspicious go-fast vessels, about 74 nautical miles south of St Croix, US Virgin Islands.

CBP said the RFA Mounts Bay launched the Coast Guard HITRON helicopter and the ship’s pursuit vessel with the Coast Guard LEDET to interdict both suspect vessels.

The Coast Guard LEDET boarding team, with the assistance of RFA Mounts Bay crew members, boarded both suspect vessels, apprehending the seven men and seizing 42 bales of suspected contraband, CBP said.

In the second interdiction, it said a marine patrol aircraft detected a northbound target of interest, south-east of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic.

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