A Briton caught aboard a luxury yacht allegedly trying to smuggle £160m worth of cocaine into the UK has been named as Andrew Cole.
The 32-year-old, from Stockton-on-Tees, in County Durham, will appear before the Plymouth Magistrates’ Court Monday along with Nicaraguan nationals Billy Downs, 49, Denson White-Morales, 34, Edwin Taylor-Morgan, 40, Brynie Sjogreen, 38 and Ryan Taylor, 42.
The six men have been charged with a series of drug trafficking offenses after more than two tons of cocaine were unearthed on Thursday evening in a raid on their Jamaican-flagged yacht just north of Guernsey.
The crew had left Barbados in the Caribbean for about 18 days before being intercepted by specialist Border Force and National Crime Agency (NCA) officers.
The highly trained officers boarded the yacht in international waters after it was surreptitiously identified by Border Force Maritime Command’s 42-meter cutter, Searcher, and its 19-meter coastal patrol vessel, Alert.
British suspect Andrew Cole, 32, (pictured), of Stockton on Tees, County Durham, was one of six men arrested in a £120 million cocaine raid about 80 miles off the coast of Plymouth on Thursday night.
The six men made the roughly 4,000-mile journey from Barbados to just north of Guernsey while reportedly carrying more than two tons of cocaine
The Jamaican-flagged ship had more than two tons of cocaine on board with a street value of around £160 million (Pictured: part of the cocaine catch)
The yacht, named Kahu (pictured), had traveled from the Caribbean and was diverted back to the UK mainland, where British police conducted an in-depth search
The huge cocaine consignment (pictured packed in gym bags) would have been ‘no doubt resold to communities in Britain’, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said
The massive drug bust, which was discovered in hundreds of sealed packages, is said to have been “unquestionably resold to communities in Britain,” the NCA said.
The yacht named Kahu – which was up for sale for £1.3 million in 2018 – had been tracked across the Atlantic by satellite.
After it was seized, it was escorted back to the British mainland, where British police conducted a thorough search.
The operation was conducted by the NCA in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Border Force.
The men, aged 24 to 49, were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and are still in custody pending interrogation.
NCA Deputy Director Matt Horne said: ‘There is no doubt that these drugs would have been sold to communities across the UK in a way such as County Lines that would fuel more crime and misery.
Organized Crime Groups (OCG) are driven by money.
“Withdrawing these drugs will leave a gap in the OCG’s plans and ability to operate.
In addition, the arrest of the men who transported the drugs means that the crime group has lost trusted perpetrators who would have been key to their operation.
“We continue to work with partners at home, such as the Border Force, and abroad, such as the AFP, to protect the public from the threat of Class A drugs.”
The operation was conducted by the NCA in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Border Forces (Photo: Officers from all three armed forces at the site of the boat’s seizure)
The men, whose ages ranged from 24 to 49, were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and remain in custody pending interviews (Pictured: Drug bust aboard the Kahu yacht)
NCA Deputy Director Matt Horne said: ‘There is no doubt that these drugs would have been sold to communities across the UK in a way like County Lines that would fuel more crime and misery’ (Pictured: Drugs hidden in gym bags aboard Kahu -hunt)
The NCA said the bust will leave a “huge hole” in the finances of the organized crime group behind the operation (Pictured: Drug bag buoyancy aids found on the yacht)
He added: “This is a massive amount of cocaine with an estimated street value of about £160 million.”
AFP Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale, said: ‘Intelligence from Operation Ironside had enabled the AFP to assist international law enforcement partners in disrupting an allegedly sophisticated criminal network.
“Operation Ironside has opened the door to unprecedented cooperation between law enforcement agencies around the world.
“This result underlines the importance of the AFP’s partnership with the NCA to fight the offshore transnational organized crime that affects both our countries.
“The AFP and NCA have a strong, historic relationship and both agencies recognize the major threat to national security posed by transnational organized crime.”