Cocaine bust between Madeira and Azores “represents major disruption to organised crime”

In a week of major cocaine busts on the high seas off Portugal, the largest ‘coup’ involving four tonnes of the drug represents “major disruption for organised crime gangs, a source has told the BBC.

Spokesman for the UK’s NCA (national crime agency) Mark Blackwell explained the gangs will now be “deprived” of “hundreds of millions of pounds” worth of revenue.

The NCA was just one of the authorities involved in the busts.

The largest haul was found on a tug boat between Portugal’s Madeira and Azores islands, says the BBC.

International law enforcement officers “found 165 individual packages of cocaine weighing 23 kg – a total of 3.7 tonnes – concealed beneath the vessel’s cooking area”.

It is still not immediately clear where the drugs were being taken to, says the BBC.

The Comoros-flagged vessel (the Comoros is an archipelago off the south-east coast of Africa, east of Mozambique) was towed into the Spanish port of Cadiz on Friday, after Spanish officials “received intelligence” from the NCA.

The operation was jointly conducted by Spanish customs and police and the NCA under the overall co-ordination of Lisbon’s Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre-Narcotics (MAOC-N).

The crew, “from Turkey and Azerbaijan” have been arrested.

This appears to have been the third drugs bust in the Atlantic in a matter of days.

Last Monday, 13 Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin were arrested over what the BBC described as “what is believed to be a record seizure of cocaine in the North African colony” – more than 2.5 tonnes, again with a street value of “hundreds of millions” (in this case dollars) – and four days later the Portuguese navy and air force was reported to have intercepted a yacht “suspected of transporting cocaine to the country from the Caribbean”.

The latter incident involved a purported haul of 400 kilos of the drug (click here).

This latest one has thus done 10 times better.

Said Mark Blackwell in a press statement: ““We’re working with colleagues in Europe and around the world to disrupt organised criminals in any way we can, and to protect UK and European borders from attempts to smuggle illegal commodities through them.”

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