An alleged drug smuggling operation onboard a cruise ship was dismantled recently after police found a stash of cocaine hidden in bowls and crisp packets. The National Crime Agency (NCA), which has been described as the U.K.’s equivalent to the FBI, announced the arrests today. Law enforcement officials said six men and six women who were allegedly involved in the operation had been detained in Portugal on March 24.
The drugs had a street value estimated at more than $2 million and were smuggled on the MSC Opera. The suspects, four of which had been passengers on the cruise, were arrested after the ship arrived in Funchal from the Caribbean. Roughly 18 kilograms of cocaine was seized.
All suspects were aged between 20 and 52 years old. Six of the suspects recently arrived on the Portuguese island from the U.K. and were planning to disperse across Europe, the NCA said. The nationalities of the suspects were not confirmed, but the police agency noted that two U.K. citizens and a Dutch national living in London were part of the alleged smuggling.
A spokesperson for MSC Cruises said: “[The company has] closely cooperated with the relevant local authorities for the successful completion of a drug trafficking operation regarding the smuggling by passengers of illegal substances onboard MSC Opera. The vessel reached Funchal, Portugal, on Sunday on her return voyage from the Caribbean.”
Allan Round, from the NCA’s Joint Border Intelligence Unit, said in a release: “We believe this operation will have seriously disrupted an organised crime group looking to traffic cocaine into the U.K. and Europe. Working with our Portuguese colleagues we have been able to act on intelligence at speed and prevent the drugs from reaching its final destination”.
This isn’t the first time either. back in May 2010, the U.K. Border Agency detained seven people for trying to smuggle 35 kilograms of cocaine also on the MSC Opera. The cruise had been travelling to Amsterdam from Brazil. Police said at the time that the smugglers designed a number of special bodysuits to hide the stash of drugs under their clothing. The street value of the seized cocaine was estimated to be worth more than $4 million.
Great work by the authorities but it does make you wonder how much gets missed. Compared to airports, cruise line security at embarkation does appear somewhat lax, would you agree?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Bye for now.