‘Aladdin’s Cave’ £11m drugs bust for Royal Navy
Drugs worth £11m will never reach the streets after the Royal Navy stopped traffickers twice in two days in the Middle East.
HMS Montrose ‘pounced’ on suspicious dhows in the Arabian Sea, says the navy, resulting in a haul of nearly two-and-a-half tonnes of illegal narcotics seized in the back-to-back operations. One of the dhows was a veritable ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ with hashish, heroin, and methamphetamine.
The frigate – which is based in Bahrain on a three-year security mission – was on patrol as part of an international task force focused on policing Middle Eastern waters to stop criminal, and especially terrorist, activity.
A Royal Marines boarding team scoured the two craft to recover the illegal cargoes.
“Having secured the vessel with my Royal Marines, we discovered the drugs in large bundled sacks, all containing individually wrapped packages. As soon as we opened the bags we were pretty confident it was an illicit substance,” says boarding team leader Lt. Gorton.
The scores of red sacks his commandos located in a 12-hour operation turned out to be packed with heroin – 275kg in all, worth around £5.3m.
Just 36 hours later, his team found an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of illegal narcotics in another dhow: hundreds of bags and sacks of hashish, heroin, and methamphetamine. It took them more than ten hours to recover them all.
“Everywhere we looked onboard there were suspicious packages,” says Gorton. “We soon realised how much we had interdicted.”
The tally was 2,145kg of illegal narcotics in all with a street value of £5.6m.
It’s the third triumph of the winter for Montrose which seized 450kg/£18m of methamphetamine – the largest seizure of crystal meth by the Royal Navy in the Gulf – in October.
Montrose is crewed by sailors from her UK home base of Plymouth, plus her specialist Royal Marines team, with the entire ship’s company of around 200 men and women changing entirely every four months so the frigate can spend more time on patrol in the Gulf region.
She’s spent the bulk of her time since arriving in the Middle East in early 2019 providing protection, security and reassurance for merchant shipping passing through ‘choke points’ – narrow waters such as the Strait of Hormuz or Bab al Mandeb Strait at the foot of the Red Sea.