Australian warship HMAS Darwin, operating under the command of a Royal Navy Commodore and his British team has made the largest ever seizure of heroin from a dhow at sea.
The record breaking 1,032 kilograms haul, with an estimated UK street value in excess of 140 million pounds, was discovered onboard a dhow in the Indian Ocean 30 miles off the East African coast, near to Kenya and Tanzania.
HMAS Darwin’s crew found the dhow, a type of vessel common to the Middle East and Indian Ocean, on Wednesday night, during an operation for the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) counter terrorism Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which is currently commanded by Royal Navy Commodore Jeremy Blunden and his team of 24 Royal Navy personnel based at the CMF headquarters in Bahrain.
The illegal narcotics interception was part of a determined multinational campaign by maritime forces to disrupt drug smuggling in the Indian Ocean, profits from which are known to provide funding for terrorist organisations including Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Commodore Jeremy Blunden Royal Navy, commander of CTF 150, said: “This is the sixth seizure of heroin by the Combined Maritime Forces since January and is by far the largest ever made by the organisation. It represents a significant blow to the drug smuggling networks. We know that heroin trafficked into East Africa reaches the shores of the UK and Europe which makes the success particularly satisfying for the UK officers and sailors serving in the task force.”
“Pinpointing a dhow in two point four million square miles of ocean is a real challenge. I am extremely proud of the efforts of my team and the Australian ship Darwin in bringing this particular case to a successful conclusion,” he added.
Hakan Demirbuken, Programme Management Officer at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said: “According to records kept by the UN, the 1,032 kilogram haul not only represents the largest ever amount of heroin seized from dhows on the high seas, but doubles the previous record which was also set by CTF 150 in 2013.”
CTF 150 heroin seizures for 2014 already amount to 2,367 kilograms, surpassing the 2,044 kilograms of heroin seized by the Task Force in 2013.
The Royal Navy led CTF 150 team in Bahrain carefully planned and coordinated the search and seizure operation with HMAS Darwin, using the Australian guided missile frigate’s high tech surveillance capabilities and boarding team to locate and search the dhow.
Once the dhow was boarded, the Australian Navy team worked through the night in difficult conditions to find the concealed narcotics which were hidden amongst a cargo of cement. The drugs were later destroyed.
Captain Craig Powell, Royal Australian Navy, CMF Director of Operations, said the drug interception showcased positive results being achieved in the Middle East: “This latest interception is the largest heroin haul in the history of CMF. The success of this interdiction is testament to the highly effective interoperability of HMAS Darwin with the UK led CTF 150 under the Combined Maritime Forces, and the professionalism of Darwin’s crew.”
HMAS Darwin’s Commanding Officer, Commander Terry Morrison said the seizure removed a major source of funding for terrorist and criminal networks.
“This is a major heroin seizure, which has removed a major source of funding from terrorist criminal networks. The search tested the steel of Darwin’s boarding parties who were working in difficult conditions throughout the night,” Commander Morrison said.
CTF 150 conducts maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean to deter terrorism and promote peace and security. It is one of three principle task forces operated by the CMF, a multinational naval partnership of 30 nations based in Bahrain.