A Briton caught on board a luxury yacht while allegedly trying to smuggle £160million 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 at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court on Monday alongside 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 string of drug trafficking offences after a raid on their Jamaican-flagged yacht just north of Guernsey on Thursday evening unearthed more than two tons of cocaine.
The crew had left Barbados in the Caribbean some 18 days prior before being intercepted by specialist officers from Border Force and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The highly-skilled officers boarded the yacht in international waters after it was covertly identified by Border Force Maritime Command’s 42-metre cutter, Searcher, and its 19-metre coastal patrol vessel, Alert.
British suspect Andrew Cole, 32, (pictured), from Stockton on Tees, County Durham, was one of six men to be arrested some 80 miles off the coast of Plymouth on Thursday evening in a £120-million cocaine bust
The six men made the roughly 4,000-mile journey from Barbados to just north of Guernsey while allegedly transporting more than two tons of cocaine
The Jamaican-flagged vessel was carrying more than two tons of cocaine with a street value of around £160million (Pictured: Part of the cocaine haul)
The yacht, named Kahu (pictured), had travelled from the Caribbean and was escorted back to the UK mainland where British police conducted a deep search
The huge cocaine haul (pictured packaged in sports bags), would have ‘no doubt been sold on to communities in Britain’, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said
The huge drugs haul, which was discovered wrapped in hundreds of sealed packages, would have ‘no doubt been sold on to communities in Britain’, the NCA said.
The yacht named Kahu – listed for sale for £1.3million in 2018 – had been tracked by satellite across the Atlantic Ocean.
After being seized, it was escorted back to the UK mainland where British police conducted a deep search.
The operation was carried out by the NCA in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Border Force.
The men, whose ages range from 24 to 49, were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and remain in custody awaiting interviews.
NCA deputy director Matt Horne said: ‘There’s no doubt these drugs would have been sold on into communities across the UK in such ways as County Lines fuelling more crime and misery.
‘Organised crime groups (OCG) are motivated by money.
‘The deprivation of these drugs will smash a hole in the OCG’s plans and ability to operate.
‘Also, the arrests of the men transporting the drugs means the crime group has lost trusted offenders who would have been key to their operation.
‘We continue to work with partners at home such as Border Force and those abroad such as the AFP to protect the public from the Class A drugs threat.’
The operation was carried out by the NCA in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Border Force (Pictured: Officers from all three forces at scene of boat seizure)
The men, whose ages range from 24 to 49, were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and remain in custody awaiting interviews (Pictured: Drugs haul onboard the Kahu yacht)
NCA deputy director Matt Horne said: ‘There’s no doubt these drugs would have been sold on into communities across the UK in such ways as County Lines fuelling more crime and misery’ (Pictured: Drugs stashed in sports bags onboard Kahu yacht)
The NCA said the bust will leave a ‘giant hole’ in the finances of the organised crime group behind the operation (Pictured: Drug bags buoyancy aids found on the yacht)
He added: ‘This is a massive haul of cocaine with an estimated street value of around £160m.’
AFP Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale, said: ‘Intelligence from Operation Ironside had enabled the AFP to assist international enforcement partners in disrupting an alleged sophisticated criminal network.
‘Operation Ironside has opened the door to unprecedented collaboration across law enforcement agencies around the globe.
‘This result highlights the importance of the AFP’s partnership with the NCA to combat offshore transnational organised crime that impacts both of our countries.
‘The AFP and NCA have a strong, historic relationship and both agencies recognise the significant threat to national security posed by transnational organised crime.’