London, United Kingdom, Aug 12 – Two Turkish drug traffickers caught with three tonnes of cocaine on a boat in the North Sea were on Friday jailed by a British judge for a combined total of 42 years.
The seizure, the result of an international operation, is believed to be the biggest single cocaine haul ever recovered at sea in Europe.
Mumin Sahin and Emin Ozmen were found guilty at Glasgow’s High Court after the cocaine worth £500 million ($647 million, 580 million euros) was found on board the MV Hamal in April 2015, around 100 miles (60 kilometres) off the Scottish city of Aberdeen.
Judge Alexander Wylie sentenced boat captain Sahin, 47, to 22 years in prison and second captain Ozmen, 51, to a 20-year term.
“You were involved in a most serious operation of commercial scale involving the transportation of cocaine by ship, in an operation which crossed international and indeed intercontinental boundaries,” said Wylie.
He described the 3.2 tonnes of cocaine involved as “not only significant but massive”.
Sahin’s lawyer, Jonathan Crowe, maintained his client was a “glorified mule”.
“In regard to the drugs hierarchy, Mr Sahin is certainly not at the top of the drugs tree but somewhere further down,” he argued.
The drugs were found in a secret hold after customs police drilled through a steel plate on board the Hamal, a 35-metre tugboat registered in Tanzania.
“This was one of the most intricate concealments we’ve ever encountered but it was no match for our expert Border Force search teams,” said Tony McMullin, regional director of Border Force, an agency of the interior ministry.
French customs identified the ship after it left the Canary Islands for northern Europe in mid-April by an unusual route that skirted Britain, having started its journey in Istanbul.
The boat’s suspicious itinerary meant officials feared that cocaine from South America had been loaded in the Canary Islands, French customs said.
Following information from French customs, the Royal Navy’s HMS Somerset and Border Force cutter Valiant boarded the tug off easternScotland.