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A 65-foot yacht was seized and found to be carrying more than a ton of high-purity cocaine. (Britain's Home Office)

Cocaine Worth $492 Million Found In Luxury Yacht

Aug 3, 2011

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Bill Chappell

British border police have broken up what might be called the Dutch Connection, seizing 1.2 tons of high-purity cocaine that was on its way to Europe. The cargo's street value has been put at 300 million pounds sterling — or around $492 million.

The BBC quotes David Armond of the Serious Organized Crime Agency (a department title that makes me wish Monty Python were still working), as saying the haul is "equal to about one-third of the requirement for the U.K. market over the course of a year."

The cocaine, the largest shipment ever seized in Britain, had been carefully hidden aboard a 65-foot luxury yacht called the Louise, while it was moored in Venezuela. The drugs, which are 90 percent pure, were formed into book-sized bricks and hidden beneath the ship's bathing platform. It took nearly a week for a team of searchers to find all of them.

Here's a video from Britain's Home Office, in which officials talk about what a coup it was — but at least you can see images of the seized boat:

After leaving Venezuela, the Louise traveled to the Caribbean. But there, French officials became suspicious of the yacht, which was then put aboard a transport ship at the British Virgin Islands, bound for Britain.

The Louise was intercepted in Southampton, where a U.K. border official says the ship's cargo was headed to the Netherlands, where it would have been converted into 7 or 8 tons of cut cocaine.

The cocaine seizure occurred in June; it has evidently become public because Dutch police this week arrested six suspects in the case. The AP reports:

Commissioner Gert Ras, of the Dutch National Crime Squad, said the six men arrested were all Dutch nationals and included the 60-year-old owner of the boat and his three sons, aged 27, 32 and 34.

British border officials and police say that the cocaine would have been used to conduct as many as 7 million street deals, the BBC says.

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