As the son of a naval veteran, I am proud of the work the Royal Navy does around the world combating the global trade in illicit narcotics. The hard work and determination of our personnel on these international operations have yielded valuable results with millions of pounds worth of drugs taken off our streets.

Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Francois

Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Francois said: “As the son of a naval veteran, I am proud of the work the Royal Navy does around the world combating the global trade in illicit narcotics. The hard work and determination of our personnel on these international operations have yielded valuable results with millions of pounds worth of drugs taken off our streets.”

Commander of CTF-150 Commodore Jeremy Blunden, said:  “Yet again HMAS Darwin has delivered an outstanding result. My congratulations to Commander Morrison and his very fine ship’s company who have set new standards for professionalism and teamwork in counter narcotics activity in the Indian Ocean.” 

This is the eighth seizure during HMAS Darwin’s current deployment to the Middle East as part of CTF-150. On 23 April the ship set a new record for the most heroin seized at sea when 1,032 kilograms was discovered on a dhow in international waters off the coast of East Africa.  And in figures provided by the National Crime Agency, the UK team in command of CTF-150 since April, have overseen the interception and destruction of drugs with an estimated UK street value of over £107m. 

The Royal Navy conducts counter-narcotic operations across the globe – and in the US three drugs runners caught as part of HMS Argyll’s work in the Caribbean Sea last year have just been sentenced to a combined total of more than 40 years.

Arley Fernando Garces, 34, of Colombia was given 25 years in federal prison for possession with intent to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and conspiracy to do the same. Co-defendants Santos Cerros-Maldonado was imprisoned for 12 years and 4 months while Gregorio Campo-Rodriguez received seven years and 3 months. 

The three men were chased down by HMS Argyll and her on-board team of 10 personnel of the United States Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment while in the Caribbean Sea on August 19, 2013. As the team approached the suspect vessel the men on board began to throw items over the side which included a kilogram of cocaine, electronics and their identification documents. US investigators later concluded that Garcia and his co-conspirators had been smuggling hundreds of kilograms of cocaine in a false bottom of their vessel. 

Commander Tim Neild, who was the Commanding Officer of HMS Argyll during the bust, said:  “This successful prosecution and the counter narcotics operation are testament to the capability and flexibility of a Royal Navy warship. It is hugely satisfying to know that these men, who were determined to smuggle cocaine across the Caribbean Sea, have been successfully prosecuted and will no longer be able to contribute to the illegal trade.” 

The drug runners were intercepted on HMS Argyll’s first day on counter-narcotic operations in the Caribbean following over a fortnight in the Pacific. The Type 23 frigate had been on a range of operations in the seas around Africa, the Falkland Islands and the Eastern Pacific before she entered the Caribbean and embarked the LEDET team for Operation Martillo. 

This is a 15-nation collaborative effort to deny trans-national criminal organisations air and maritime access to the littoral regions of Central America, and focus on putting a stop to the illegal movement of drugs from South America to the western world.

Marine Engineer Officer

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