The captain and first officer of an ocean going tug boat are now starting lengthy prison sentences after being found guilty of trafficking £512 million worth of cocaine.
The captain and first officer of an ocean going tug boat at the centre of the UK’s biggest ever class A drug seizure have been given prison sentences totalling 42 years.
Mumin Sahin, 44, and Emin Ozmen, 51, both from Istanbul in Turkey, were in charge of the MV Hamal.
It was boarded by officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force in April 2015.
The vessel was around 100 miles east of Aberdeen.
The interception also involved the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Somerset.
It followed intelligence supplied by the NCA, the French customs investigation service DNRED and the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre.
The vessel was taken back into port.
Over the following days around 3.2 tonnes of cocaine, with an estimated potential street value of £512 million, were recovered from a tank in the boat’s hull.
Following an 12 week trial at the High Court in Glasgow, ship captain Mumin Sahin and first mate Emin Ozmen were both found guilty of two counts of drug trafficking on 11 July.
The charges against four crew members were found not proven.
Three others had been acquitted earlier in the proceedings.
On 12 August, Sahin and Ozmen were sentenced to 22 years and 20 years respectively.
Speaking following the sentencing, the NCA senior investigating officer John McGowan said: “Today’s sentencing is the culmination of a truly international investigation into a seizure that was unprecedented in its scale for Scotland, the UK and Europe.”
He continued: “That investigation, codenamed Operation Screenplay, has involved law enforcement agencies across the world, from here in the UK, France, Turkey, Guyana and Tanzania.”
McGowan said that “although the final destination for this haul of drugs is likely to have been mainland Europe there is no doubt in my mind that some of it would have ended up on the streets of the UK, fuelling further criminality.”
“By making this seizure and putting these men behind bars not only have we protected the public but we have also caused major disruption to an international organised criminal network,” he added.
The drugs on board the Hamal began their journey in South America in March 2015.
As part of their investigation, NCA officers were able to prove that over the following weeks the vessel sailed from Guyana across the Atlantic to Tenerife.
From there, the vessel sailed around the north of Scotland, through the Pentland Firth and into the North Sea.
Coded email messages found on the boat by the NCA pointed towards a planned rendezvous point off the north coast of the Netherlands.
The Hamal was intercepted by HMS Somerset and the Border Force cutter HMC Valiant before this could take place.
Once in port, specialist Border Force deep rummage teams conducted a painstaking search of the boat, eventually finding the drugs hidden inside a tank deep within the hull.
It took more than two days to recover the 128 bales inside.
The regional director, Border Force North Region, Tony McMullin, said it was “one of the most intricate concealments we’ve ever encountered”.
“Once discovered, it took nearly three days for the team to remove all the cocaine bales from Hamal – demonstrating the scale of the this operation and the ability and dedication of our officers,” he said.
“By preventing drug trafficking and locking up those responsible, we are also protecting our communities from the harm these drugs could have caused,” he continued.
“We will continue to work closely with law enforcement colleagues in the UK and around the world to protect the security of our border,” he added.
The captain and first officer of the Tanzanian flagged MV Hamal have been found guilty after the UK’s biggest ever cocaine seizure.
Following an 12 week trial at the High Court in Glasgow, ship captain Mumin Sahin and first mate Emin Ozmen were found guilty of two counts of drug trafficking.
They will be sentenced on 12 August 2016.
The charges against four crew members were found not proven. Three others had been acquitted earlier in the proceedings.
The cocaine, with an estimated potential street value of £512 million once adulterated, was found hidden on board the MV Hamal in April 2015.
The vessel had been intercepted by the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Somerset and Border Force cutter HMC Valiant in the North Sea approximately 100 miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire.
They were acting on intelligence supplied by the National Crime Agency (NCA), working in co-operation with the French customs investigation service DNRED and the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre.
NCA officers were deployed on HMS Somerset as the MV Hamal was boarded and escorted into the Port of Aberdeen.
After the vessel arrived in port on Friday 24 April, a search of the vessel was carried out.
Ballast tanks on the Hamal were pumped out so that search crews could gain access.
As they began to drill through a metal panel inside one of the tanks, a white powder was seen on the drill bit. It tested positive for cocaine.
The panel was removed, revealing bales of cocaine concealed inside a neighbouring compartment.
The way the bales were stacked inside showed that there must be another access point in the vessel.
Investigators began a detailed search for the main access point and in crew quarters above the compartment, underneath a medical cabinet, they found an area of floor that had been cemented over.
They chipped through the cement and found a sealed metal hatch, which provided access to the tank containing the cocaine.
Border Force officers found 128 bales of cocaine inside, each weighing approximately 25 kilos.
The total weight of the cocaine taken off the MV Hamal was in excess of 3.2 tonnes.
The drugs were taken away, under armed guard, to a secure location.
Forensic tests revealed the cocaine had a purity of between 58 and 74 per cent.
NCA officers detained the nine Turkish crew members and they were formally questioned in Aberdeen.
A deck log and engine log books stated that the MV Hamal had spent time in West Africa after leaving Turkey.
However, analysis of the ship’s navigation system showed that, even though the AIS navigational beacon was turned off, GPS had continued to monitor movements on a laptop computer.
This proved that the ship had sailed from Tenerife on 8 March 2015 and travelled across the Atlantic, arriving in Georgetown, Guyana, on 21 March.
It left five days later and, significantly, paused its journey for around 12 to 15 hours around two days after leaving port. This is where investigators believe the drugs were loaded on.
Officers also recovered a coded satellite phone email message from the vessel, containing a series of numbers.
When checked against a key found in a notebook on board this corresponded with co-ordinates for a location in the North Sea, north of the Dutch/German border.
Investigators believe the drugs would have been offloaded at that location.
NCA senior investigating officer John McGowan said: “This seizure was unprecedented in scale, the biggest ever class A haul in the UK, and we believe the biggest ever maritime seizure of cocaine in Europe.”
He continued: “While we suspect that the end destination for this load would have initially been mainland Europe, there is no doubt given the size of the seizure that a good percentage would have ended up being sold in the UK and fuelling further criminality.”
“Our investigation has been truly international and we have relied on support of law enforcement colleagues across the globe, including France, Turkey, Guyana and Tanzania,” continued McGowen.
“I would like to pay tribute to the assistance we have received from the Royal Navy, Border Force, Police Scotland, the SPA and the Crown Office in making this seizure and putting those responsible before the courts,” concluded the senior investigating officer.
Regional Director, Border Force North Region, Tony McMullin praised the Border Force search teams as “world-leading”
“Once discovered, it took nearly three days for the team to remove all the cocaine bales from Hamal – demonstrating the scale of the this operation and the ability and dedication of our officers,” said McMullin.
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