Argus scores £120m cocaine bust in Caribbean

Cocaine worth more than £120m will never reach the streets of the UK thanks to a double drugs bust by the Royal Navy in the Caribbean.

The Royal Navy have now had seven successful drugs busts in as many weeks in the Caribbean, preventing more than a third of a billion pounds worth of drugs reaching the open market. 

Over one and a half tonnes of Cocaine either rests on the seabed or has been seized by Navy support ship RFA Argus after she twice successfully intercepted traffickers in the space of a few days.

During the first incident, the drug runners dumped their entire cargo overboard, while in the second more than one tonne of cocaine was either recovered from the sea or the boat which the traffickers were using.

Since early September RFA Argus and HMS Medway have seized over 4.5 tonnes of cocaine, with the total street value of the drugs had they reached the UK at £367m.

It’s at a time like this, when all the elements in a ship as capable as RFA Argus come together to achieve such success, that one feels proud to be her Commanding Officer

Captain Kevin Rimell RFA

“It’s at a time like this, when all the elements in a ship as capable as RFA Argus come together to achieve such success, that one feels proud to be her Commanding Officer,” Captain Kevin Rimell RFA.

“The professionalism and resourcefulness of both the UK and US assets on board have delivered success and proven we work as one team.”

In the most recent bust, which resulted in a haul of 1,085kg of cocaine, Argus launched her Wildcat helicopter to search for a suspected drug runner. 

The aviators from 815 Naval Air Squadron quickly found the boat and gave chase, catching it and forcing it to stop before a boat carrying Royal Marines from 47 Commando and a US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment arrived and the suspect craft was boarded and searched.

Packages of drugs had been thrown overboard during the chase, so a Merlin helicopter from 845 Naval Air Squadron and another boat were launched by Argus to recover the discarded bags.

A few days earlier, Argus’ Wildcat pounced on another speedboat whose crew threw packages of drugs overboard as they tried to outrun the helicopter.

The traffickers accepted they were unable to avoid capture as the Royal Marines of 47 Commando and the US Coast Guard closed in on them, boarded it and took control. It is estimated the suspects had off-loaded approximately half a tonne of cocaine. 

The captured smugglers were handed to a nearby US Coast Guard cutter before RFA Argus continued her Caribbean patrol, leading a Royal Navy task group which also includes patrol ship HMS Medway.

The two busts took place before Argus was dispatched to Honduras to support relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Eta; for operational reasons we are now able to report the successes. 

Argus has now carried out five counter-narcotics operations since September, while fellow task group ship HMS Medway has two to her name in the same time span.

These operations in the Caribbean are conducted in support of the UK National Crime Agency, and continues the successful collaboration through the international partnership of the US Joint Inter Agency Task Force (South) based in Florida.